Artefacts (Artifacts)

Image from Anders Sandberg

An artefact (also spelled artifact) is an object produced or shaped by an intellegent agency, especially a tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest. The term is also used, often with capitalization or some other special distinction, for particularly important or potent devices left by Terragen transapients or by xenosophonts transapient or otherwise, particularly if such items are still functioning but their purpose and mode of operation are not well understood.

Artefacts and Civilization

The development of civilization requires the acquisition of complex cognitive processes. For instance on Old Earth the evolution of artefacts for counting and accounting in early civilizations (for instance the development of clay tokens and writing on clay tablets in Sumer, about 3300-3100 b.c.e.) enabled users to process relatively large amounts of information with greater abstraction. This fostered long distance trade and critical industries such as metallurgy, which in turn revolutionized crafts. For example, metal saws could cut wooden planks into circular shapes, allowing such inventions as the wheel. Metal weapons transformed warfare, leading to conquests far and near that could be administered with tokens and economic tablets. Finally, tokens and writing fostered new cognitive skills and thereby transformed the way people thought. Similar patterns (albeit differing radically in detail) have been found in the archaeology and history of xenosophont races such as the To'ul'hs, Limners. Those civilizations that reached high levels of technology eventually produced artifacts that were themselves animate, and might in some cases match or exceed the complexity of their inventors, as happened during the Information Age on Old Earth. Typically this rarer event leads eventually to the items termed Artefacts.

Xenosophont Artefacts

The discovery of alien artefacts (beginning with the great stone icons on The World of Meditating Idols) not only revolutionized the science of xenology but also had a deep effect on Terragen culture. No longer was Terragen sapience considered alone in the galaxy. However it was to be many centuries before the first actual aliens were contacted (the To'ul'hs, during the Integration). The discovery of alien artefacts from lost races and civilizations is especially rare, and there is a thriving black market trade which organizations like the Eden Institute of Xenology, the Hamilton Institute of Exopaleontology, the Ozymandias Institute, and the Central Alliance Galactic Customs and Contraband Agency, try valiantly to prevent, whether the objects in question are shards of pottery or entire megastructures. A few xenosophont artefacts are in fact transcendogenic artefacts; some of these have defences of their own against archaeologists and profiteers alike.

Transcendogenic Artefacts

Without the relics and artefacts left by the transapient ascends and transcends, galactic civilization would be a very different place. Much of the interstellar economy rests on the artistic, memetic, and technological value of these precious objects. Often some of a society's essential functions are dependent solely on a supply of artefacts from the Ascended and Transcended powers and Archai.

  • Artificially Optimised Galaxies  - Text by The Astronomer
    Galaxies optimised for habitation by unknown xenosophonts.
  • Baryos  - Text by ProxCenBound and Anders Sandberg
    Artificial planet inside a neutrino star.
  • Beelzebub  - Text by Grant Thomas
    Harsh world known for the presence of the clarketech artifact MellaUx 137.
  • Carnot Engine  - Text by Eric Lo
    Popular myth of an impossible device. The Carnot engine is a hypothetical perfect piston engine that recycles the heat within its combustion chamber to repeat the same adiabatic combustion process and thus the Carnot engine never needs to refuel or expel waste. This equation was made by the Napoleonic era (Old Earth) French physicist Sadi Carnot who realized this engine worked only mathematically but not in reality because it violated the Law of Entropy (entropy increases in a closed system).
  • Chahipho Collection  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Major art collection in the Vast Endeavour system gathered by the AI godlet Chahipho in the Era of Fragmentation.
  • Chameleon, The  - Text by Charles Mosteller
    Massive polyhedron structure of unknown Terragen origin possessing of self-malleable properties, altering its own shape precisely every minute on the minute.
  • Clarke's Laws  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Three so-called 'laws' written by the Atomic and Information Age fabulist Arthur C. Clarke.
  • Clarker  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Sentient who makes a living through sifting through marketplaces for unusual artifacts.
  • Clarketech  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Technology so advanced as to be indistinguishable from "magic"; it appears to be miraculous in its workings; any godtech that cannot be understood by modosophonts.
  • Cluster Brain  - Text by John B
    High-level brain of Great Archailect level which consists of many star-brains and/orMatrioshka nodes linked together by wormholes within a single open cluster.
  • Coagulator  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Rare clarketech device that disrupts molecular bonds at a distance (generally not more than 20 meters, although range varies). This involves unusual quantum effects; some have suggested a quantum resonance field that synchronizes the phase of electrons in a way that a common chemical bond (like carbon - carbon) breaks, but this is debatable. In any case, the broken bonds re-connect but generally in the wrong way, creating a massive chemical rather than physical shock.
  • Conway's World  - Text by Xaonon
    Megastructure of unknown terragen origin that replicates and displays a simple cellular automation cycle.
  • Cryptotechnology  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Technology which is hidden, obscure, or very rare.
  • Deep Traveler, The  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Mobile Dyson shell recently discovered by IR astronomy in intergalactic space approximately 23 million ly away.
  • Deepwood  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Deep space orwood species of probable alien origin.
  • Discontinuity Barrier  - Text by Todd Drashner
    A type of rumored clarketch device, never actually confirmed.
  • Enhancer  - Text by Todd Drashner and Anders Sandberg
    Also known as a matter enhancer or an enhancer device. A semi-mythological clarketech artefact that is very popular in pop-culture dramas.
  • Finity Box  - Text by Todd Drashner
    High level clarketech device. Basically a box from 0.5 to 1 meter on a side that is larger on the inside than on the outside. May employ a basement universe or space-time folding (no S-level below the creating intelligence knows for sure). A Finity Box may be as much as five times larger on the inside than on the outside and no amount of mass put inside it causes any perceptible change to the mass or inertia of the box itself.
  • Hedrile, The  - Text by Loopquanta
    A presumably artificial wormhole of unknown design, origin and destination; it has not yet been traversed successfully.
  • Hollerith Anomaly Object   - Text by HÃ¥kan Andersson
    A nebula in the Chronos Cluster that contains a nanecology, some semi-sentient entities, and a number of odd phenomena. It is believed to have been left behind by a xenosophont civilization, now no longer evident and assumed by some to have transcended.
  • Hygeras Object  - Text by Aaron Hamilton
    Mysterious alien artifact.
  • MellaUx 137  - Text by Grant Thomas
    Clarketech technomineral found only on Beelzebub.
  • Muuh Graveyard of Charn  - Text by Worldtree
    A rediscovered cinder system containing fossilized Muuh mass grave sites and several other mysteries.
  • Null Box  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A high-inertia clarketech artifact of unknown origin discovered on Zeta Corianis IV.
  • Oceanus Ultimata  - Text by Todd Drashner, with some comments by M. Alan Kazlev and Anders Sandberg
    Star in Carina Outer Volumes surrounded by an apparently artificial water ocean-ring.
  • Olympus Pill  - Text by Idonai
    The Olympus Pill, a mysterious ascension tool shrouded in fable, has been the object of intrigue and speculation throughout the known systems for millennia. It is rarely encountered, with sightings occurring sporadically, only once every few centuries. Interestingly, these occurrences are mostly reported in areas where transapients and transapient-tech are relatively rare.
  • Peregrinate, The  - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Distributed pseudo-polity of unknown origin, consisting of individuals claiming allegiance to the Peregrinate and being under the protection of the Peregrin, an unknown AI god protecting them through adornments similar to the Solarian pilgrimage jewellery.
  • Perfect Mirror, The  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Alien artifact discovered on the fifth moon of the gas giant T'tul in the Carina Rush.
  • Pseudoclarketech - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Technology that in all ways pretends to be, or appears to be, clarketech, but, although advanced, still shows itself to be amenable to study and reverse engineering.
  • Quantum Entanglement Device, QED - Text by M. Alan Kazlev with note by Anders Sandberg
    Mythological godtech or clarketech communications device that supposedly employs quantum entanglement for limited "ftl" communicate at interstellar distances. Said to be in the hands of powers and archailects. It is commonly believed or supposed in cheap virchfiction that a few have over the centuries fallen into the hands of nearbaselines, who have however been able to use them to their useful potential. The reality is that no QED has ever existed; as with FTL it is a myth that is believed by the gullible. It has been known ever since the Atomic and Information ages of Old Earth that actual quantum entanglement cannot be used to send useful information.
  • Reverse Engineer, Transapientech  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    A modosophont who studies the technologies of transapients and attempts to replicate or adapt them to the needs of ordinary sophonts.
  • Rock, The  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    The Rock is said to be based on a real granite boulder in the STC or the Keter Dominion which had been modified by advanced godtech so as to become a 2nd (in some variants of the story, a 4th or 5th) singularity intelligence.
  • Semblance of Eternity  - Text by Matt, Dagon, and John B
    Disputed alien artifact.
  • Spindle, The  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Alien artifact discovered by Metasoft in 7432.
  • Tetrahedron 3  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Independent orbital in the oort regions of the Neo Kijref Nek System
  • Transtech - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Technology created or left by very high transingularity or transcended beings; clarketech.
  • Whisper  - Text by Todd Drashner
    Planet covered in a sophont grassland xenoecology, perhaps of artificial origin.
Related Topics
Development Notes
Text by M. Alan Kazlev
some extra comments by Stephen Inniss
Initially published on 04 October 2001.

Additional Information