A cultural artifact or cultural artefact is a term used in the social sciences, particularly anthropology, ethnology and sociology, for anything created by humans which gives information about the culture of its creator and users. Artifact is the spelling in North American English; artefact is usually preferred elsewhere.
Cultural artifact is a more generic term and should be considered with two words of similar but narrower nuance: it can include objects recovered from archaeological sites, i.e. archaeological artifacts. Still, it can also include modern or early-modern society objects or social artifacts. For example, in an anthropological context, a 17th-century lathe, a piece of faience, or a television each provides a wealth of information about the time they were manufactured and used.
Cultural artifacts, whether ancient or current, have significance because they offer insight into technological processes, economic development and social structure, among other attributes.
The philosopher Marx W. Wartofsky categorized artifacts as follows:
Primary artifacts used in production (such as a hammer, a fork, a lamp or a camera);
Secondary artifacts: relating to primary artifacts (such as a user manual for a camera);
Tertiary artifacts: representations of secondary artifacts (such as a picture of a user manual for a camera).
Unlike archaeological artifacts, social artifacts do not need a physical form (for example, virtual artifacts) nor be of historical value (items created seconds ago can be classified as social artifacts).
Archbishop Eric Michel's Father Images
Christmas Card send to the Archbishop Eric Michel