Help identifying spearhead
I would appreciate help with identifying this item. It has been given to me for a course, but after browsing the internet for a few days it seems it does not exist. I have been provided with the information that it is a "19th century steel spearhead from India", however, I highly doubt more than a quarter of this is true.

The "spearhead" is about 17,5 cm long, 4 cm wide with a hollow shaft. The top is most likely cast, the shaft made out of a metal sheet. The two barbs are articulated and when moved upwards form an arrow shaped head. It shows slight wear. The picture illustrates the front and backside of the spearhead. According to the New Bedford Whaling Museum it is not a harpoon.

Any information on this object would be highly appreciated (e.g. date, place of origin, function).

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Last edited by Marlie V. on Thu 29 Nov, 2012 1:19 pm; edited 1 time in total
Off the top of my head I'd call it a harpoon point, for whaling or large fish such as swordfish or sharks.

Could be totally wrong, but that's about the only practical use of an articulated barb that I've ever heard of, aside from modern expanding-head arrows.

No idea about origin or time period, though... sorry.
Thanks Jeffrey. I had the same idea. However, I have contacted the New Bedford Whaling Museum and their answer was negative. They had never seen something like it before either.
One other possibility..given that it's supposedly Indian. Could it possibly be some unique/unusual "Pig Sticking" lance head ? I know it was a big sport there in the 19th C..cavalry chasing wild pigs with their lances. Maybe this one was designed NOT to pull out as readily as the normal military-issued lances ?
The length and diameter certainly seem to be within the possibility for a lance head ? Whatever it looks interesting :)
Looks like a whaling harpoon head, but perhaps a bit small for that, and a whaling harpoon head should come loose from the wooden haft so the holes in the socket suggest it isn't a whaling harpoon. For fish, such as swordfish as suggested above?

If it was a whaling harpoon, it would be called a "two flue toggle head" or "two flue toggle iron" or "two flue pivot head" or such. Googling for these terms might find you a few examples.

This kind of design was used in the early 19th century (perhaps earlier?), as an improvement over two flue fixed barb heads, but I think it was replaced by the single-flue toggle iron starting about mid-19th century.

Some whaling harpoon of this type were designed to hold a cyanide (prussic acid) capsule.

I've never seen a pig sticking lance designed to stick into the pig and not come back out - could be a bad move for the rider.

Could be a modern fake, too - there is a market for fake whaling antiques.
The scale of it makes it a pretty small item. What is the diameter of the socket opening? About 20mm? Is the point threaded to the socket?

I would be surprised of it was meant fo commercial fishery use unless there is a patent number pointing to the trade.

Aside form the fact that it does have a socket, I might be leaning towards a fancy hay harpoon. Those usually are integral to a ring for a rope. The head is small for that though as well.

What is the weight?



These guys are good and have bailed a few people out
The head is indeed quite small. The socket diameter is 20 mm at its widest, the opening only about 15 mm. I would say it does not weigh more than a couple of hundred grams, as the shaft is hollow. The head and the shaft are fully attached, however, no movement possible.

Thanks for the link and the idea of a hay harpoon, hadn't heard of that one yet.
Where did the item surface? Does the point unscrew from the socket?


It's part of a previous collection by an archaeologist who was interested in archery and arms. Most of the items are from antique shops and key examples of their type/time, which makes this one stand-out seen the fact no one has seen it.

No, it doesn't. The socket appears to be a normal split (haft) socket but instead of being attached to the head, it is "wrapped" around the section where the head's diameter is smaller. Again, it looks pretty solid.

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