Artifacts are the material remains of groups and individuals that lived in the past. In historic archaeology a wide variety of artifacts exist. Think about all the objects that you may interact with on a daily basis: clothing, furniture, electronics, structures (office buildings, homes, stores, etc), and so forth. Humanity’s material world is vast. Despite the diversity of objects with which humans interact, only a small portion remains as a part of the archaeological record. Some items such as glass, metal, and ceramic simply last in the ground longer than others such as organic material and clothing. Therefore, the objects we find do not represent the entirety of the past’s material world.
The standard for most archaeological sites is for excavated soils to be “screened” through 1/4″ wire mesh. In doing so, archaeologists are really only keeping a sample of the artifacts that they may come across: anything smaller than 1/4″ is not collected.
So far this summer our sampling of artifacts contains many common artifact types: metal nails, window glass, bottle glass, and small pieces of ceramics. Although these items may sound mundane, I am always hearing exclamations of excitement as volunteers uncover an object that has been buried in the earth for decades or centuries. The volunteers’ emotions show the power that archaeology possesses in making the past come alive.
Stay tuned for more updates where there will be a greater discussion regarding specific artifacts that we’ve unearthed!