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Artifacts

Arthur Asa Berger


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Artifacts are generally understood to be simple objects that show human workmanship. They are important to scholars for the role they play in reflecting a society's level of technological development and aesthetic taste, among other things. Archaeologists analyze artifacts and other aspects of everyday life from ancient civilizations and try to reconstruct these civilizations from the artifacts they have left behind. Sociologists and other social scientists, as well as culture critics, are also interested in artifacts – in the broadest sense of the term – using them and other aspects of material culture to gain important insights into values, beliefs, and ideological aspects of the society or culture being studied (→  Culture: Definitions and Concepts ). The study of artifacts can be approached from a number of disciplines. In recent years, scholars have expanded the definition of artifacts to include foods, fashion objects, and relatively simple machines. The great Dutch historian Johan Huizinga (1924) focused on the symbolic significance of everyday objects, reminding us that medieval thinkers believed that “all things would be absurd if their meaning would be exhausted by their function and their place in the phenomenal world, if by their essence they did not reach into a world beyond this. This idea of a deeper significance in ordinary things is familiar to us as well, independently ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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