Image via WikipediaMany people often ask me, "what is the coolest artifact I've ever found?" or "What is that artifact worth?" While artifacts are important to archaeology, the question I have is, "do archaeologists need to find artifacts?" The answer may surprise many of you, because we often think of artifacts as objects such as arrowheads (PP/K's), pottery, or an ancient shipwreck. But what about company records from a coal mine? A diary? How about a building? Maybe machinery or photographs? Newspapers? Some of you may say, "Archaeology Dude! Archaeology is about digging sites and cataloging artifacts, not about books or pictures!" I would say, archaeology is about people and their daily lives in the past.
As a student of archaeology, I want to study the fabric of the human condition in the past.What was life like in 1850 in Southwestern Pennsylvania? What about in 950BP (Before Present)? Archaeology is about experiencing and understand what life was like for the common person during a specific time period. Thant includes not only the tools and technology people used but also the different objects and texts (if any) that allowed people to go about their daily lives. Archaeology is the understanding of the human condition in the past. All objects, from tools, to maps, to documents, to photographs, and the very site notes and logs that archaeologist use on a dig site, all of them contribute to the understanding of what it was like to be a human in the past.