How Can I Get My Artifact Identified?

I found an artifact--what the heck is it?

Calipers and cotton gloves are used during the analysis of artifacts.
Calipers and cotton gloves are used during the analysis of artifacts. Kris Hirst (c) 2006

A frequently asked question here at Archaeology @ concerns an artifact that someone has found, or inherited, or bought somewhere. Among the questions people ask is:

  • How do I find out what kind of artifact it is?
  • What culture does my artifact come from?
  • How old is it?
  • Is it a fake?
  • How much is it worth?

Locate Your Nearest Archaeologist

It's really hard to determine the age or characteristics of an artifact with even the best picture—harder still to determine if it's real or not, so the best suggestions is that you take the object to an archaeologist to ask them. If you know where the object came from or have an idea how old it is or what culture it belonged to, you might consider finding a specialist in that area. But if you're clueless, just reach out to the nearest archaeologist.

Luckily, archaeologists are much closer than you think! An archaeologist could be as close as the nearest anthropology department of your local university, or the state archaeologist's office, or a nearby museum.

Call first—many archaeologists spend much of the year in the field. If they can, they'll be happy to speak to you—and they won't try to steal the object from you! And if they don't know, they can probably tell you who you can talk to next.

Where to Find an Archaeologist