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Artifact Identification

Have an artifact you'd like identified? Not sure what you've just unearthed from your back yard? We've compiled a list of resources to to help you find the answers you're looking for.

Please note that the PSU Anthropology Department and most of the resources listed below do not provide appraisals. Even legal buying and selling of artifacts encourages looters and the illegal sale of antiquities. Instead, we encourage the donation of artifacts to museums and other repositories for proper preservation and to make them available for the public to enjoy.

The Burke Museum suggests some helpful information to have on hand when attempting to idenitfy an artifact:

  1. Where was the artifact found?
    Knowing where an artifact was found can greatly increase the chances of identifying your artifact. You should be as precise as possible; even knowing general information, such as whether it came from a beach or a field, can be helpful. If you are able to provide a map or an address where the artifact was found this is also helpful.
  2. When was the artifact found?
    This will help determine whether or not there are any legal issues with which you should be concerned.
  3. Do you have a picture of the artifact?
    This provides the opportunity to do some preliminary research on the object. Photos should always be taken with some sort of scale (a ruler is best, but even a common object such as a US coin can help).

The PSU Anthropology department does not specialize in dinosaur fossils. For resources to help you identify various types of artifacts, please see below:

Item Type Institution/Event Contact
Bone or bone fragments Archaeology Roadshow
hosted by PSU's Anthropology Department and OMSI
butlerv@pdx.edu
503-725-3303
Annual Artifact ID Day
hosted by The Burke Museum (Seattle)
206-543-5590
Oregon State Office of Heritage Archaeological Services heritage.programs@state.or.us
503-986-0671
Fossils Northwest Fossil Fest
hosted by North America Research Group
503-385-5649
Oregon Department of Geology ian.madin@dogami.state.or.us
deb.schueller@dogami.state.or.us
971-673-1555
PSU Geology Department geology@pdx.edu
503-725-3022
Oregon Paleo Lands Institute explore@paleolands.org
541-763-4480
Oregon Sea Grant Fossil Fest
hosted by Hatfield Marine Science Center (Newport, OR)
541-737-2714
Annual Artifact ID Day
hosted by The Burke Museum (Seattle)
206-543-5590
Human-made objects such as
pottery sherds or flint tools
Archaeology Roadshow
hosted by PSU's Anthropology Department and OMSI
butlerv@pdx.edu
503-725-3303
Annual Artifact ID Day
hosted by The Burke Museum (Seattle)
206-543-5590
Oregon State Office of Heritage Archaeological Services heritage.programs@state.or.us
503-986-0671
Alpine Archaeological Consultants Historic Artifact Handbook (PDF)  
Palomar College Historic Ceramics Site  
Glass Bottles Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Site questions@historicbottles.com
Alpine Archaeological Consultants Historic Artifact Handbook (PDF)  
Palomar College Historic Bottle Site  

Other Resources:

Association of Oregon Archaeologists

Association for Washington Archaeology

Oregon Archaeological Society

Geological Society of the Oregon Country