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An artifact is an object created or modified by humans. It can be a relic of a former civilization, or of an earlier time period of an extant civilization. Artifacts are objects made by human hands, for a particular purpose: thus, archaeologists use artifacts to ascertain facts about an earlier human civilization.[1] They are used to form the basis of an inferential process. For example, an ankh found in a sarcophagus in Egypt would allow archaeologists to draw inferences about Egyptian burial practices.

In the evolutionary timeline, Homo habilis was the first hominid to be able to create objects. Creation science, of course, disagrees with the existence of hominid ancestors.

In roleplaying games, an artifact often refers to a magical item of considerable power.
  1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.