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Artifacts vs. Ecofacts

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Artifacts vs. Ecofacts

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  • December 3, 2010
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Artifacts vs. Ecofacts

Many people who know little about archaeology probably have little clue of the difference between artifacts and ecofacts. Yes, the prefixes of the words are different, but they’re both a type of “fact”. That’s probably what most people would seem to figure out between the two terms, and before I knew what they meant, I would just stick with artifact as it’s a more commonly used word to describe something found from the past. As far as I was concerned, ecofacts were basically the same things as artifacts. Now that I know the difference, it makes much more sense to what kind of information each type of object can offer us.

Showing signs that humans made contributions to these, artifacts provide us a ton of information of our ancient ancestors. The earliest known artifacts that have been found tell us that early humans have been using tools for at least 2.4 million years. The biface is the first tool design of the Acheulian era that has been discovered. At the site located in Peninj, Tanzania, phytoliths on the bifaces or handaxes were studied. Phytoliths are the botanical remains found as “mineral elements of plant cells after the rest of the plant has disinigrated” (Chazan, 2008). After the study of the phytoliths, it was suggested that the bifaces or handaxes were used for woodworking. As we build up collections of ancient tools, they give us information to about how long it took the early humans to figure out technological advances. Artifacts aren’t only tools that we have found. Artifacts can also be found in forms of “waste resulting from a manufacturing process. An example of a waste artifact is slag, a by-product of smelting ores” (Chazan, 2008). When artifacts are found, they are separated into one of three different areas of analysis by what they are made of. If there is a stone tool, it would be part of the lithic analysis group. Pottery and clay material would be sectioned to the ceramic analysis group, and...