Difference Between Artifact and Fossil

Artifact vs Fossil

The key difference between artifact and fossil can be explained simply as follows: the artifact is man-made while the fossil is nature-made. Both artifact and fossil can be defined as the interests of archaeological studies. An artifact can be described as an object made by humans and also it is a work of art. Artifacts become important when they become an object of interest of Archaeologists. Fossil, on the other hand, can be defined as the remains of the parts of animals or plants from the remote past. These are interesting research objects for archaeologists those who try to trace back the remote history. Let us look at the terms artifact and fossil and the difference between them in detail.

What is an Artifact?

Artifact is something made or given shape by humans. These could be any tool or a work of art and usually these are used by archaeologists to decide certain things. Artifacts, which have an archaeological value, may be used to find out about the cultural traits and skills of the people in the bygone era. Artifacts have been found in excavations and also from historical sites. Stone tools, pottery vessels, metal weapons, personal items such as buttons, slippers, clothes, etc. are some of the examples for artifacts. Moreover, human or animal bones, which have signs of human modification, are also considered to be artifacts.

Since the human history had so many eras and civilizations, we have got thousands of artifacts, belonging to different periods of time. Archaeologists use these to study the culture, habits and lifestyles of people that lived in those periods and also they determine how developed the cultures were by examining these artifacts. Some artifacts have been buried with dead bodies whereas some could be found from domestic settings. Likewise, artifacts help archaeologists to figure out details in historic and pre-historic era.

Difference Between Artifact and Fossil

What is a Fossil?

Fossil is the preserved traces of animals, plants, and other organisms from the remote past. These are found by digging up the ground. Fossils are also interesting research objects for archaeologists who try to trace back the bygone era. The study of fossils reveals the geological time, how they were formed and the how they were evolved, etc.

The study of fossils is called “paleontology.” Once a fossil is found, archaeologists try to decide its age and there is a modern method for that. Fossil size could vary from microscopic to gigantic sizes. Also, a fossil may not have the whole body structure of the organism but only a small or a considerable part of it. However, fossils have a greater extent of historical value in them.

Artifact vs Fossil

What is the difference between Artifact and Fossil?

• Definition of Artifact and Fossil:

• Artifact is something made by humans, and it has elements proving the existence of the bygone era.

• Fossil is a remaining part of an animal, plant or any organism from the remote past.

• Benefits:

• Artifact helps to determine the culture, lifestyles, and development in a particular period of human history.

• Fossil helps to determine the age, evolution, and life form of a particular organism.

• Materials used:

• Artifacts may have been created using stones, metal, clay, wood, or any hard material.

• Fossils are remaining parts of decayed organisms that have partially mineralized.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Mycenaean stirrup vase via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. T-Rex by  David Monniaux (CC BY-SA 3.0)