Artifact (archaeology)

Artifact (archaeology)

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An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest". "Artifact" is the usual spelling in the US and Canada, "Artefact" in the UK, Europe and Australasia (see spelling differences).

In archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, where the term is most commonly used, an artifact is an object recovered by some archaeological endeavor, which may have a cultural
Archaeological culture
An archaeological culture is a recurring assemblage of artifacts from a specific time and place, which are thought to constitute the material culture remains of a particular past human society. The connection between the artifacts is based on archaeologists' understanding and interpretation and...

 interest.

Examples include stone tool
Stone tool
A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric, particularly Stone Age cultures that have become extinct...

s such as projectile point
Projectile point
In archaeological terms, a projectile point is an object that was hafted to a projectile, such as a spear, dart, or arrow, or perhaps used as a knife....

s, pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 vessels, metal objects such as guns, and items of personal adornment such as buttons, jewellery
Jewellery
Jewellery or jewelry is a form of personal adornment, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.With some exceptions, such as medical alert bracelets or military dog tags, jewellery normally differs from other items of personal adornment in that it has no other purpose than to...

 and clothing. Other examples include bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

 that show signs of human modification, fire cracked rocks from a hearth
Hearth
In common historic and modern usage, a hearth is a brick- or stone-lined fireplace or oven often used for cooking and/or heating. For centuries, the hearth was considered an integral part of a home, often its central or most important feature...

 or plant material used for food.

Sources


Artifacts can come from any archaeological context
Archaeological context
In archaeology, not only the context of a discovery is a significant fact, but the formation of the context is as well. An archaeological context is an event in time which has been preserved in the archaeological record. The cutting of a pit or ditch in the past is a context, whilst the material...

 or source such as:
  • Buried
    Burial
    Burial is the act of placing a person or object into the ground. This is accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing an object in it, and covering it over.-History:...

     along with a body
    Body
    With regard to living things, a body is the physical body of an individual. "Body" often is used in connection with appearance, health issues and death...

     (grave goods
    Grave goods
    Grave goods, in archaeology and anthropology, are the items buried along with the body.They are usually personal possessions, supplies to smooth the deceased's journey into the afterlife or offerings to the gods. Grave goods are a type of votive deposit...

    ).
  • From any feature
    Feature (archaeology)
    Feature in archaeology and especially excavation has several different but allied meanings. A feature is a collection of one or more contexts representing some human non-portable activity that generally has a vertical characteristic to it in relation to site stratigraphy. Examples of features are...

     such as a midden
    Midden
    A midden, is an old dump for domestic waste which may consist of animal bone, human excrement, botanical material, vermin, shells, sherds, lithics , and other artifacts and ecofacts associated with past human occupation...

     or other domestic setting
  • Hoard
    Hoard
    In archaeology, a hoard is a collection of valuable objects or artifacts, sometimes purposely buried in the ground. This would usually be with the intention of later recovery by the hoarder; hoarders sometimes died before retrieving the hoard, and these surviving hoards may be uncovered by...

    s
  • Votive offering
    Votive offering
    A votive deposit or votive offering is one or more objects displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place for broadly religious purposes. Such items are a feature of modern and ancient societies and are generally made in order to gain favor with supernatural...

    s


Artifacts are distinguished from the main body of the archaeological record such as stratigraphic feature
Feature (archaeology)
Feature in archaeology and especially excavation has several different but allied meanings. A feature is a collection of one or more contexts representing some human non-portable activity that generally has a vertical characteristic to it in relation to site stratigraphy. Examples of features are...

s, which are non-portable remains of human activity, such as hearth
Hearth
In common historic and modern usage, a hearth is a brick- or stone-lined fireplace or oven often used for cooking and/or heating. For centuries, the hearth was considered an integral part of a home, often its central or most important feature...

s, road
Road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...

s, or deposits and remains, and from biofact
Biofact (archaeology)
In archaeology, a biofact is an object, found at an archaeological site and carrying archaeological significance, but previously unhanded by humans. A common type of biofact is a plant seed...

s or ecofacts, which are objects of archaeological interest made by other organisms, such as seed
Seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...

s or animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

 bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

.

Natural objects which have been moved but not changed by humans are called manuport
Manuport
In archaeology and anthropology, a manuport is a natural object which has been moved from its original context by human agency but otherwise remains unmodified. The word derives from the Latin words manus, meaning 'hand' and portare, meaning 'to carry'.Examples include stones or shells moved from...

s. Examples would include seashells moved inland or rounded pebbles placed away from the water action that would have fashioned them.

These distinctions are often blurred: for instance, a bone removed from an animal carcass is a biofact, but a bone carved into a useful implement is an artifact. Similarly there can be debate over early stone objects which may be crude artifacts or which may be naturally occurring phenomena that only appear to have been used by humans.

A human made object, such as a tool, weapon, or piece of jewelry. These items might hint at how people dressed, what work they did, or how they worshiped.

See also


  • Antiquities
    Antiquities
    Antiquities, nearly always used in the plural in this sense, is a term for objects from Antiquity, especially the civilizations of the Mediterranean: the Classical antiquity of Greece and Rome, Ancient Egypt and the other Ancient Near Eastern cultures...

  • Archaeological ethics
    Archaeological ethics
    Archaeological ethics refers to a number of moral issues raised through the study of the material past.In common with other academic disciplines, archaeologists are bound to conduct their investigations to a high standard and observe intellectual property laws, Health and Safety regulations and...

  • Art Object
  • Assemblage
  • Biofact (biology)
    Biofact (biology)
    In biology, a biofact is dead material of a once-living organism.In 1943, the protozoologist Bruno M. Klein of Vienna coined the term in his article Biofakt und Artefakt in the microscopy journal Mikrokosmos, though at that time it was not adopted by the scientific community...

  • Dating methodology (archaeology)
    Dating methodology (archaeology)
    Dating material drawn from the archaeological record can be made by a direct study of an artifact or may be deduced by association with materials found in the context the item is drawn from or inferred by its point of discovery in the sequence relative to datable contexts...

  • Excavation
  • Geofact
    Geofact
    A geofact is a naturally formed stone formation that is difficult to distinguish from a man-made artifact....

  • Harris matrix
    Harris matrix
    The Harris matrix is a tool used to depict the temporal succession of archaeological contexts and thus the sequence of deposition on a 'dry land' archaeological site. The matrix reflects the relative position and stratigraphic contacts of observable stratigraphic units, or contexts. The Matrix was...

  • Seriation
    Seriation
    Seriation is a way of situating an object within a series:*Seriation *Seriation...

  • Small finds
    Small finds
    Small finds is an archaeological term for artifacts discovered on excavations which are somewhat special compared with the common finds for that type site or type phase on multi phasic sites. The special nature of the find is dictated by research agendas and the information the artifact can provide...

  • Furniture
    Furniture
    Furniture is the mass noun for the movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating and sleeping in beds, to hold objects at a convenient height for work using horizontal surfaces above the ground, or to store things...



External

  • http://www.rmcvirtualmuseum.com/Archaeology/index.htmlArtifact (archaeology) Collection at the Royal Military College of Canada Museum
    Royal Military College of Canada Museum
    The Royal Military College of Canada Museum, established in 1962, is located in a Martello tower known as Fort Frederick on the campus of the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, and is operated by the college. The Royal Military College of Canada Museum has regular hours from...

     in Kingston, Ontario
    Kingston, Ontario
    Kingston, Ontario is a Canadian city located in Eastern Ontario where the St. Lawrence River flows out of Lake Ontario. Originally a First Nations settlement called "Katarowki," , growing European exploration in the 17th Century made it an important trading post...

    ]