vase being excavating
Archaeologists excavate fragile artifacts such as this vase very carefully with trowels, picks, brushes, and a great deal of patience.
Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta
An artifact is an object made by a human being. Artifacts include art, tools, and clothing made by people of any time and place. The term can also be used to refer to the remains of an object, such as a shard of broken pottery or glassware.
Artifacts are immensely useful to scholars who want to learn about a culture. Archaeologists excavate areas in which ancient cultures lived and use the artifacts found there to learn about the past. Many ancient cultures did not have a written language or did not actively record their history, so artifacts sometimes provide the only clues about how the people lived.
Artifacts have provided essential clues about life in ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife and buried the dead with things they would need in order to live on in the afterlife. As a result, the tombs of ancient Egypt provide a wealth of artifacts that give insight into the culture. The tomb of King Tut is perhaps the most famous. In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter came upon the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen, more commonly known as King Tut. King Tut’s tomb had been undisturbed since he was buried around 1323 B.C.E. Murals on the wall of the tomb told of King Tut’s funeral and journey to the afterworld. The tomb also included more than 5,000 artifacts, including perfumes and oils, jewelry, statues, and even toys from Tut’s childhood. Carter led a team of archaeologists in cataloging the items from King Tut’s tomb. This work took the archaeologists over a decade, but the artifacts continue to help historians better understand life in Egypt during the era of King Tut.