- Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact (from Latin phrase arte factum, from ars skill + facere to make) 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).
Examples include stone tools such as projectile points, pottery vessels, metal objects such as guns, and items of personal adornment such as buttons, jewellery and clothing. Other examples include bone that show signs of human modification, fire cracked rocks from a hearth or plant material used for food.
Artifacts can come from any archaeological context or source such as:
- Buried along with a body (grave goods).
- From any feature such as a midden or other domestic setting
- Votive offerings
Artifacts are distinguished from the main body of the archaeological record such as stratigraphic features, which are non-portable remains of human activity, such as hearths, roads, or deposits and remains, and from biofacts or ecofacts, which are objects of archaeological interest made by other organisms, such as seeds or animal bone.
Natural objects which have been moved but not changed by humans are called manuports. 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.
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