Culture impacts our lives, both consciously and subconsciously, and reflects our way of life, our behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols. Passed by communication and imitation from one generation to the next, culture bounds language, religion, cuisine, social habits, fashion, music, dance, the arts, etc.

             Within each culture, many artifacts, whether ancient or current, are deeply significant and represent important historic events, reflect deeply held values, are part of important rituals or traditions, or serve as a reminder of a key part of life within that culture. Artifacts represent the values of the community.

             For example, an obvious cultural artifact may be a sports trophy, which represents the value of winning, but it also represents teamwork, determination, physical fitness, and endurance. Athletes who play to win usually accept these values, which connect them with the community of their teammates.


             Write a cultural artifact analysis essay (2-3 pages in length, not including the Works Cited page) in which you investigate the values of a community and how those values are conveyed. Choose a culture of interest. Then, choose a physical artifact that is an important part of that culture. You are to discuss the culture to which the artifact belongs, explain the artifact, and explain the artifact’s use within that culture.

             Write for an educated audience that is interested in culture. The essay’s purpose is to increase your knowledge of a cultural or subcultural artifact, practice, tradition, or festival represented in society, and help break down stereotypes of difference and see people from cultures other than our own as unique individuals.

Critical Questions to Ponder:

1. What does this cultural artifact assume about the way the world is?  Or, about the way that it isn’t?
2. What does this artifact assume about the way the world should be?
3. What does this cultural artifact make possible?  All of the possibilities may not be positive.  For example, think of the places visited; consider a positive and negative “possibility” for each.
4. What does this cultural artifact make impossible (or at least difficult)?
5. What new forms of culture are created in response to this artifact?

6. Whose culture or community is championed through the artifact?  Who is excluded by it and why?


             You must also find 2-3 credible sources of information about your artifact. Be careful to cite your sources appropriately in both your written outline and in your essay.

Essay Template:

Introduction:  Write an introduction that sets a tantalizing stage for the paper. Provide a brief overview of the culture you have chosen to profile and then segue to your theme. Place the theme in context by explaining what it is that makes it such a profoundly important part of the culture. State your thesis.

Body Paragraphs — You may have 1 or more body paragraphs on each topic to              convince the reader of the veracity of your thesis statement:

           1:  Provide a thorough discussion of the culture to which the artifact belongs.                               Explain the values, beliefs, rituals, traditions, customs, etc.

            2:  Discuss the artifact.

                          Explain its significance and value to the culture. What is it?     

                          How does it represent values and traditions in its culture?         

                          What hopes, preferences, or ideas of success do this artifact                                                                             communicate?

What do these values (and thus this artifact) reveal about that community? About society as a whole?

             3:  Explain the artifact’s use within its culture.

Tie this analysis to the culture to which the artifact belongs. What impact              does the artifact have on that culture?

                          Who uses it? How does it work?

Conclusion:  Tie the information together with a final summary. Conclude your paper by giving the reader something to ponder. Too often, students end papers as though they have written the definitive and last word on a subject. But the world continues to turn, so try to “point forward” — or, better yet, find a source who points forward and makes a prediction about the future of your cultural theme.


  • Use third person, objective point of view.
  • Use a reasonable, professional, and trustworthy tone.
  • Provide detailed information in the form of explanations, facts, statistics, examples, comparisons, or other supportive data in a systematic fashion.
  • Cite source material appropriately and define any unfamiliar terms.
  • Use at least 2-3 credible sources of information that support your analysis. Integrate both quotation and summaries, parenthetically cited, into the flow of your writing. Avoid “dropped” and block quotations.
  • Include an Outline and a Works Cited page using MLA format

Topic Examples:

Artifacts are passed down from generation to generation, becoming a part of our family and cultural heritage. Some examples include family photographs, medals from war, jewelry, religious items, diaries, old coins or stamps, kitchen items, clothing, or literature. Artifacts are all around us. They can be found in our homes, gardens, streets, parks, and churches, among other locations. Anything that provides more evidence about the cultural, economic, historical, religious, and social aspects of our society could be considered an artifact. Preserved in museums around the world, artifacts tell the stories of humanity’s downfalls, achievements, and innovations.

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