Artifacts: How We Think and Write About Found Objects is the first comprehensive study of the archaeological objects that were dug up in England during the long eighteenth century.
Artifacts are objects unlike any other. Fragmented and from another time or place, artifacts invite us to fill in their shapes and their histories with our imaginations. Composed of both body as well as spirit and located in the present as well as the past, artifacts inspire imaginative reconstructions that frequently contradict one another. As the Enlightenment’s thinkers, writers, and readers tried to settle the nature of physical matter in their quintessential pursuits of order, they stumbled over artifacts.
Artifacts follows the four types of artifacts that proved to be the most intriguing as well as the most vexing for their early enthusiasts. As these ancient coins, medieval manuscripts, obsolete weapons, and the grave goods of monarchs moved through popular collections and texts, they changed the ways we write, read, and even think about objects and the past.
If you like collecting flea market finds or wandering around museums—if you’ve ever found yourself sucked into an episode of Antiques Roadshow—Artifacts will help explain what it is that makes old stuff so fascinating.