Hollow Base projectile points from Fayum


These are Predynastic barbed and concave spear points from the Oasis Fayum. This type of arrowhead is sometimes called a Fayum Point, or a concave based arrowhead or a hollow based arrowhead. Most of the examples have one of the wings broken off. The type is designed bifacial and the ‘wings’ or barbs, resulting from the depth of the hollow base, vary in length. Hollow Base points from Egypt have deeper concave bases than any other projectile point in the world. One or more of their fragile “ears” are usually found broken off. Complete examples are fairly rare. It seems as I f they were designed to break on impact. Either that is the explanation or they were just poorly designed. Which is hard to believe since they were made and in use for approximately 2,000 years! Hollow Base points were hafted onto the ends of spear / dart /arrow shafts by sliding the point into grooves cut on either side of the shaft. Hafted examples still exist in the museum at Cairo, Egypt.

Hollow Base projectile points are characteristic of the Egyptian Neolithic through middle Predynastic periods (ca. 5300 – 3300 B.C.). They are found throughout the Egyptian Nile Valley and even in the Western Desert, but are best known from the Fayum Lake basin just south of Cairo.

Size: The size of the projectile varies greatly so that some have been assumed to be spear heads and others were designed for dart and arrows.  Most have curved lateral edges though some are straight giving a more triangular appearance to the outline. Several are serrated.

Geographic extension: 
Such points are not confined to Egypt. A similar winged type was found at site H in Wadi Ghazzeh in the Gaza strip. Whether these were made in Egypt or not is unclear. The earliest of the type appear in the Bashendi A layers at Dakhleh (5700-5000 BC). They appear in the Fayum Neolithic (Neolithic A) around 4500 BC and at the same time at Merimde. They continue until Badarian and Naqada I times (4000-3500 BC). Although they are often called ‘Fayum Points’ they also occur in Upper Egypt, for example at Mostagedda and Badari. It is unclear if they continue until Naqada II times (3500-3100 BC). 

Typological Variation: Neolithic types tend to be more finely made than the Predynastic types. At Merimde Predynastic stouter ones were earlier than narrow long ones. It has been debates as to whether or not one can see regional variations. Caton-Thompson and Gardner distinguished four different types from the Fayum (Caton-Thompson and Gardner 1934, 28). Hikade (2001) distinguishes between a Merimde point and the Fayum point. Rizkana and Seeher (1988, 33) state that at Maadi, Fayuum and Merimde triangular specimens with only slight hollows are found in the same contexts as others with very pronounced wings. Holmes (1989, 416) writes ‘A virtually infinite variety of concave base arrowheads is known from the Fayum, but for the Predynastic of Upper Egypt it has been useful to distinguish only two basic shapes: ‘incurving barb form’ and ‘straight-sided elongated triangular form”.

The wings do not always seem to have acted as barbs. A hollow-based arrowhead of uncertain date with fore shaft attached was found to have the wings completely covered with adhesive. In this instance at least, the wings were intended to strengthen the join of the head to foreshaft. The fact that these are bifacial arrowheads rather than simpler transverse types suggests that they were not simply utilitarian. Even the smaller chunkier ones are made with more care than would be needed simply from a practical view point. Thus, they probably also had symbolic importance, perhaps as a status marker.

Faiyum A Neolithic

Fayum- No need for crops?

Hollow based projectile point from the Fayum A Neolithic

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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