A unique source of information for Archeologists is artifacts. Artifacts are objects people used in their natural form or modified into a different object. Some examples are ceramics, projectile points, nails, brick, and fired crack rock.
After excavation artifacts are cleaned, cataloged, and stored, Archeologists can begin analyzing artifacts to better understand a site and the people who lived and/or worked there. Analysis includes categorizing artifacts into categories called “artifact types”. Some different artifact types include personal and domestic artifacts.
Think about something important to you for a moment. Perhaps it’s a ring or a watch that’s been in your family for generations. Maybe it’s something natural, like a shell you found on a walk with a grandparent. These are things that we treasure, and oftentimes losing them is very traumatic. Other times they mean a lot to an individual, but upon that person’s passing the objects are discarded. Whatever the object or the case, personal Whatever the term the archeologist chooses to use to describe the finds, there are strong implications for the interpretation of those artifacts. Does a decorated comb imply higher income? Could a cluster of pipe stems and bowls imply a smoking area? What does it mean when medicine bottles are found in higher-than-expected numbers in an area where medicine isn’t traditionally practiced? Personal artifacts are evocative – they are often fantastic indicators to otherwise harder to see activities that are so often difficult to find archeologically.
Artifacts always open the door to a much more personal interpretation when we do find them.
A hairbrush or comb might be referred to as a “small find,” whereas a locket, button, or clasp could be referred to as an “object of personal adornment.”
Depending on the time, we’ll find significant numbers of ceramic sherds, glass fragments, faunal remains, and other well-preserved artifacts that tell us about what people were doing.
Think about your home and some of the items you use every day but may not think about. When you eat a meal, you probably use a plate and a utensil or two. You have pots and pans for cooking, brushes and sprays for cleaning, and a whole host of different objects that probably rarely cross your mind but make your home life much easier daily. The same has been true for all human history, the objects just looked a little bit different.
Take a look at some of Petersburg National Battlefields' artifacts virtually!
Last updated: October 27, 2021