Artifacts hold a special role in understanding cultural history. With cultural history, we’re interested in what everyday life looked like for people in the past. Artifacts can give us clues to this kind of information that we would not have access to otherwise.
Artifacts are objects that people from the past created, used, or otherwise interacted with. They can include everything from pottery shards to letters to clothing to tools. While an individual artifact may not tell us much about a culture in and of itself, a collection of artifacts can give us a window into the past.
One of the benefits of artifacts is that they allow us to touch the past in a way that we can’t do with written records alone. While written records can tell us a lot about a culture, they can only give us one perspective on it: that of the person who wrote or recorded the information. Artifacts, on the other hand, have a physical presence that lets us see, touch, and smell the past.
Artifacts can also help us interpret written records. For example, say we read a diary from someone who lived during the American Civil War. We might get a lot of information about what that person’s life was like, but we wouldn’t necessarily know what the tools looked like that they used to prepare food or build their shelter. If we found these tools among some artifacts, we would have a better idea of what daily life was like for people during the Civil War.
Of course, artifacts have their limitations. For example, it’s likely that only a small percentage of the artifacts that people created in the past have survived to the present day. Additionally, even with a large collection of artifacts, we’re still left with a lot of unanswered questions about the past.
Overall, artifacts are a valuable tool for understanding cultural history. They give us a unique perspective on the past that can’t be found anywhere else. So the next time you’re at a museum or archaeological site, take some time to appreciate the artifacts on display: They can tell us a lot about the people who created and used them.
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