Five Frogs’ Quiver

Five Frogs' quiver with five metal-tipped arrows. Source: WSU

The quiver and set of arrows above is from the McWhorter Collection at Washington State University.  It belonged to the Nez Perce warrior Pahka Pahtahank (Five Frogs), who fell in battle in 1877.  Ten arrows in total were in the quiver: five with metal tips, and five with plain wooden tips – or, more likely, unhafted (probably prepared for a side-hafting method).  The wooden five are illustrated below. What I find interesting about this quiver is that no two of the five metal-tipped arrows are the same.  Archaeologists are very prone to a simple “projectile point sociology” whereby the styles of (usually, stone) projectile points are used as proxies for archaeological cultures, or ethnic groups, or as temporal markers:  ‘The side-notch people”;  “The corner notch phase”.

It is therefore a little sobering when we see ethnographic instances of an apparently cavalier attitude towards stylistic consistency.  Sometimes, (at least rarely) being a little sober is a useful mindset.   Did the different arrowheads make no difference to accuracy, or to penetration, or even to their definition as “suitable arrows”?  What are the archaeological implications of Five Frogs’ diverse arrows?  In a classic paper, Polly Wiessner (1983) noted several mechanisms for a similar Kalahari case, including hunters exchanging arrows with each other as a sign of respect and affection.  Closer to home, Glen MacKay, in his excellent UVIC M.A. thesis, suggested diverse projectile points in a short occupation site in The Yukon was a technological mediation of kinship unease:

Was the ‘arbitrary’ technical choice of hafting techniques a subtle way for young men living matrilocally to express their discontent with this institution, a means of communicating a desire to return to the people with whom they learned to make spear points and hunt? Several contextual details fiom the KdVo-5 hunting stand support this proposition…..

Emotion in archaeological interpretation!  Stamp it out.

Tips of Five Frogs' wooden arrows. Source: WSU

The top five arrows are from Five Frogs' quiver. The bottom four are from another Nez Perce warrior, Yellow Wolf (Hemene MoxMox), made as deliberate replicas. Source: WSU/


Wiessner, Polly   1983.  Style and Social Information in Kalahari San Projectile Points.  American Antiquity, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Apr., 1983), pp. 253-276

MacKay, Glen R.   2004.  The Nii’ii hunting stand site : understanding technological practice as social practice in subarctic prehistory.  Unpublished M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria.  Download.

8 responses to “Five Frogs’ Quiver

  1. I wonder if diversity within the quiver is more the rule than the exception. Images of armed arrows from a single quiver are hard to find on the internet. Here are three all with some degree of variation in the arrow heads:


  2. I also see some standardization in the point styles and probably some functional differences. I’m sure the Ghengis Khan quiver included different points made for going after chain mail, plate armour, fleeing naked victims, wild sheep, etc. Within each of those quivers there are several points that look virtual identical to each other.

    I have the opposite expectation after excavating a number of single occupation sites. At CD 20 at EbRl-20 (maybe wrong on the site#) at Kamloops IR, we excavated most of a large matlodge that had a single component – maybe a couple of occupations, probably serial years. We got a couple of dozen points, and all were triangular side notch and multi-side notch, and all were interesting in that the basal width exceeded the normal range for ‘kamloops side-notched’ points. They were clearly a single type, with only a few unnotched preforms stored under a bench different from the rest (and they would have been essentially identical if they had been notched).

    We talked at length about Denman Island blufftop site a couple of days ago – that again had several dozen contracting stem point, remarkably similar to each other.

    I’m sure in these cases there were other functional styles of points made entirely from wood (that we didn’t find because they had perished) and others made from bone of which we found a few.

    From what I’ve heard of the points from the large site on Skirt Mountain excavated by Golder, they are all the contracting stem mostly serrated blade ‘Cascade’ or ‘Olcott’ style that Martina and I described in the chapter in the ‘projectile point’ paper a few years ago.

    I think its very significant that at two montane rockshelters excavated by Flenniken, Daugherty and Welch in the late 1980s in Washington State, that the lowest layers contained just Winddust points; the next higher contained Cascade points with a few Winddust; and so on. In each layer, there were a few of the preceeding members of the sequence – either mixed physically (but they saw no crosscutting pits etc); or found on the ground while roaming the area and brought back to the site.

    James Teit has a very good quote on people finding older stone points and bringing them back to either rework or reuse (“The Thompson”):
    “Many were made out of large chipped
    heads, which are found in great numbers in the valleys’.- The Indians believe
    that the latter were mnade by the Raven.- The form, and the method of tying
    with sinew,- are shown in Fig. 222, a, b. The heads of war-arrows were inserted
    in a line parallel to the nock, while those of hunting-arrows were inserted at right
    angles to the nock. It will be noticed that when the bow is held horizontally, the
    head of the war-arrow is horizontal, while that of the hunting-arrow is vertical.
    The Indians maintain that thus the head more -easily penetrates between the ribs.
    More recently iron points have replaced the stone points.- The points of war arrows
    were generally barbed; those of hunting-arrows, leaf-shaped.”

    Daugherty, R., J. J. Flenniken and J. M. Welch
    1987 A data recovery study of Judd Peak Rockshelters (45-LE-222) in Lewis County, Washington. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, Oregon.

    1987 A data recovery study of Layser Cave (45-LE-223) in Lewis County, Washington. Studies in Cultural Resource Management No. 7. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region, Portland, Oregon.


    • Hi Morley,

      I’ve seen that amazing Skirt Mountain assemblage and it is truly the most consistent set of 50-odd projectile points I have ever seen (just based on eyeballing it, mind you). So no doubt standardization of form was valued by some people at some times and I am just stirring the pot here a bit. Stylistic cross-dating works pretty well.

      That’s a great quote from Teit. Post-processualists make a big deal (rightly enough) about the “past in the past” but I’ve never seen such a frank acknowledgment from an ethnographic source that the archaeological record has always been stimulating to people, long before there were archaeologists. I think way back to my ground stone celt study, there were a number of those which had very well developed weathering except on the bit, which was suggestive that these had been found in the ground and recycled back into use.

      Some of the quivers might have great provenience and be true stylistic time capsules, but you never know how many odd arrows just got jammed into one or another by collectors, dealers, or even early curators. On the whole though I think we need to see stylistic rigidity as a topic of investigation and not an input into culture-historical framework building.


  3. I have always looked at arrows as storage devices. Marking (painting) them identifies the makers group. With compound arrows, a main shaft and foreshaft may come from two different local groups.

    If I kill a large animal with another group (or groups compound) arrow, they get a share in the animal. This “stores” meat as mutual obligations. It also spreads risk around. If I am not successful in a hunt, someone else with one of my shafts or foreshafts may make a kill, bringing meat to my group. Basic reciprocity as food storage.

    In addition, foreshafted arrows allow quck changes between penetration (narrow), bleeding (wide), or shock (cross piece) style projectile points. One can also mount barbed points for fishing, or heavily serrated and barbed points for warfare.

    Books like Allely & Hamm’s “Encyclopedia of Native American Bows, Arrows & Quivers” as well as Mason’s “North American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers” (reprint from 1893 with foreward by Allely) illustrate the wide variety of hafted and non-hafted arrows.


    • Thanks for the interesting comment, Leland. In some ways this exemplifies the “technological practice as social practice” idea — notions of reciprocity and the finely tuned negotiations that surround obligation and the gift, are made material through the form and markings of arrows, and through the sharing of these material emblems which can too easily be dismissed as being only about function (though function is assuredly necessary for arrows as well!)

      Storage is easily seen as a major prime mover – and if we include your sort of storage of obligation, and such things as the storage of labour in one’s children who then release said labour in old age, then a general theory of “artificial delay” is seen as a singularly important coping mechanism, cross-culturally (and not just in places where boxes of fish rose to the rafters)


  4. Almost 40 years ago, sitting on a beach with an Inuit elder who was then in his late eighties at Bathurst Inlet in the Central Arctic, he produced a quiver with half a dozen arrows with bone and stone points including one with a flat metal point manufactured from the handle of a spoon.
    He explained to me that each point had a different purpose — one for ground squirrels, one for ducks, and so on. Perhaps the plurality of points has a simple exlanation, just as we use shotgun loads and bullets of different weight and configuration for different purposes. The metal point? “That was for when you wanted to get a wife — from somebody else!” Joking or serious? I was never certain.


  5. Interesting story and no doubt there is a functional overlay to this variety. Where is the boundary between function and style in archaeology and how can we know? It seems to me that for accuracy, arrows should be as consistent to each other as possible; to the extent they aren’t I suspect that other factors (functional tips, as you suggest, or ambush hunting meaning accuracy was not a big deal) came into play.

    But, really: the embarrassment of being a deer killed by a recycled spoon?!


  6. Here is another collection of arrows at UCBerkley Pheobe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, presumably made at the same time. Said to be Makah. Some armed with obsidian points.

    There are other supposedly Makah arrows illustrated in this collection, which were collected in Clallam Bay (and thus possibly Klallam). Seem to be armed with bone points, probably of varying styles, but the photos don’t zoom in close enough to tell. Search on “Makah Arrow” to see 6 more. There are also 3 Makah bows.


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