Friday, August 1, 2008

What is an “Artifact”?

In this particular article, I just want to examine the true definition of the word “artifact”. So I start out by asking, what is an artifact. Most people would say that it is a piece of a pottery or stone tool left behind by the Native Americans. Others may say that it’s a button, piece of glass, clothing, or basically “something really old” that was thrown away at some point a long time ago. Okay, so that makes sense and it is also very true, but how do we decide what is old? These are all very good questions that people can ask when trying to figure out if something is actually an artifact. So, I am going to make it really easy for everyone and let it be known that anything that was made or crafted by a person is an artifact. Not only that, but it doesn’t matter how old the object is either. This is the beginning process of understanding how an archaeologist, like me, thinks and interprets the objects we study.

I have been working as an archaeologist for a while, and I’m not going to say how long. When I first started in this field, I was only 12 years old. I did not have a clue what archaeology was really about, or what was an artifact either. I now realize that artifacts are everywhere! The best way to understand it is to look at your own trash that gets thrown away each day. Everything being put in the trash was made and used by people, right? So everything that we even use today and gets discarded is an artifact. It’s not old, but the importance of an artifact is the story it can tell. What you put in your trash, tells a lot about the people who used it and then threw it away. Not only that, but when objects are found together we can learn by what is called “inference by association”. What this means is that the more pieces of trash found together, associated with each other, can provide even more information about the people that threw it away, than if only one object was found.

Well, I hope that this at least brought some readers to a better point of understanding one part of what my job is all about. The main point I want to get across is that you can make discoveries about people in the past and present everyday, just like an archaeologist. My children pick up trash off of the ground all the time and bring it to me because they have just found an artifact. Granted it’s not going to solve some crucial cultural question that I might have, but they are still correct in saying the objects they find are artifacts. So imagine the possibilities, and you can begin to think just like an archaeologist in examining our own culture through the “artifacts” we use everyday.

3 comments:

A Youth Minister's Blog said...

Good start to your blog, especially the part about how artifacts tell a story. I'd be interested to learn about what archaeologists are studying in NC currently - Native American cultures? Colonial life? What's your area of specialization? Just curious...

wes

Micah said...

This is a great blog! I think it is very informative and will peak interest with many about LCHA and relative work. I've added "posts" to my Google homepage, so I can stay aware of the happenings. Good job!

Joan said...

Do you know curator Pekka Ruuska, www.pekkaruuska.com?