It seems to me that this word should be much older. However, it is a fairly new word which usually defines something that is quite old. Strange in a way. When I think of this word visions of Indiana Jones pop into mind, an archeologist brushing through the dirt or crawling through a cave to find some ancient relic of a time long gone. What comes to mind when you hear the word artifact?
1821, artefact, “artificial production, anything made or modified by human art,” from Italian artefatto, from Latin arte “by skill” (ablative of ars “art;” see art (n.)) + factum “thing made,” from facere “to make, do” (from PIE root *dhe- “to set, put”). The word is attested in German from 1791. The English spelling with -i- is attested by 1884, by influence of the Latin stem (as in artifice). Originally a word in anatomy to denote artificial conditions caused by operation, etc.; archaeological application in English dates from 1885 (in German from 1875).
Artifact is a combination of two Latin words, arte, meaning “by skill” and factum which means “to make.” Usually when you use the word artifact, you are describing something crafted that was used for a particular purpose during a much earlier time.
also ar·te·fact (är′tə-făkt′)
- An object produced or shaped by human craft, especially a tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest.
- Something viewed as a product of human conception or agency rather than an inherent element: “Morality is an artifact of human culture, devised to help us negotiate social relations” (Michael Pollan).
- A phenomenon or feature not originally present or expected and caused by an interfering external agent, action, or process, as an unwanted feature in a microscopic specimen after fixation, in a digitally reproduced image, or in a digital audio recording.
- An inaccurate observation, effect, or result, especially one resulting from the technology used in scientific investigation or from experimental error: The apparent pattern in the data was an artifact of the collection method.