The Importance of Ecofacts

In this fast-paced, money-driven world that we live in today, people are constantly striving to connect to the more simple times of the past. Studying ecofacts is one way people do this. As human beings, we are naturally materialistic. We are obsessed with getting that new iPhone, or that car that is a year newer and nicer than the one next door. This is how human beings have acted since the beginning of time. Those with the most gold or the most china were considered wealthy, elite, and superior to those around them. These material goods that people owned centuries ago are known as “artifacts” in the archeological world. Artifacts tend to be the findings that make the big headlines in the news or featured in the special museum event. Being that this is a materialistic world, it only makes sense that artifacts get the fame. However, I believe that ecofacts and inorganic materials are just as important to understanding the past as artifacts are.

Coming from a Native American background, my grandmother has always stressed the importance of respecting the land and all of the histories that it holds. When I was a young child, she gave me my first piece of petrified wood. It was amazing to be able to hold a piece of the world that other animals used to touch millions of years ago. This began my fascination with historical stones.

Archeologists discovering petrified oak in Wyoming.

Ecofacts such as stones were absolutely essential to the survival of the early man. Stones were used to build shelters, hunt prey, skin prey, plow land, and so many other things that were necessary to survive millions of years ago. The discovery of stone ecofacts has allowed archeologists to better understand what types of environments early humans once lived in. Petrified wood shows the type of trees that belonged in the area, which we can relate to the types of animals that were available to hunt in these days. When archeologists find petrified oak, they can assume that a forest once existed in that area, so it is unlikely that fishing was the main source of food for the people that lived there. Archeologists can use things such as petrified wood and old stones to better understand how the world once worked, and what humans did to survive.

Handaxe from Europe during the Stone Age.

Just one hundred years ago we did not know that humans existed in the Stone Age, but thanks to stone tools, some over two million years old, we now know that humans were very active in this era. Ecofacts as simple as stones play a huge role in connecting us to our past.



Renfrew, Colin, and Paul G. Bahn. Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, Practice with 295 Illustrations. London: Thames & Hudson, 2015. Print.


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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Ecofacts

  1. How long does it take to petrify wood? Are there cases where humans actively tried petrifying wood? How does one determine if the petrified wood has archaeological value?

    • Although many people believe that it takes millions of years to petrify wood, certain factors can rapidly speed up the process. When wood is covered by layers of volcanic ash, the ash decomposes in the presence of water, enriching the groundwater with silica, allowing the wood to dry and harden.

      Scientists have attempted artificially petrifying different types of organisms and minerals, including wood. Wood samples have been successfully artificially petrified by being infiltrated with acidic solutions, diffused internally with titanium and carbon and fired in a high-temperature oven in an inert atmosphere to yield a manmade ceramic matrix composite of titanium carbide and silicon carbide still showing the initial structure of wood.

      There are several different factors that go into determining if the petrified wood has archeological value. These include where the piece of petrified wood was found, how large the piece of petrified wood is, and if there are any distinct markings on the petrified wood. Generally, the larger and heavier pieces of petrified wood tend to have a larger value.

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