Artifacts include tools, clothing, and decorations made by people. They provide essential clues for researchers studying ancient cultures.


5 - 8


Anthropology, Archaeology, Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations


Vase Being Excavated

Archaeologists carefully excavate an ancient vase from hard-packed soil with soft brushes.

Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta
Archaeologists carefully excavate an ancient vase from hard-packed soil with soft brushes.

An artifact is an object made by a human being. Artifacts include art, tools, and clothing made by people of any time and place. The term can also be used to refer to the remains of an object, such as a shard of broken pottery or glassware.

Artifacts are immensely useful to scholars who want to learn about a culture. Archaeologists excavate areas in which ancient cultures lived and use the artifacts found there to learn about the past. Many ancient cultures did not have a written language or did not actively record their history, so artifacts sometimes provide the only clues about how the people lived.

Artifacts have provided essential clues about life in ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife and buried the dead with things they would need in order to live on in the afterlife. As a result, the tombs of ancient Egypt provide a wealth of artifacts that give insight into the culture. The tomb of King Tut is perhaps the most famous. In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter came upon the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen, more commonly known as King Tut. King Tut’s tomb had been undisturbed since he was buried around 1323 B.C.E. Murals on the wall of the tomb told of King Tut’s funeral and journey to the afterworld. The tomb also included more than 5,000 artifacts, including perfumes and oils, jewelry, statues, and even toys from Tut’s childhood. Carter led a team of archaeologists in cataloging the items from King Tut’s tomb. This work took the archaeologists over a decade, but the artifacts continue to help historians better understand life in Egypt during the era of King Tut.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.


If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.


Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources