The Artifact is the last remaining object from the universe that existed before the Big Bang. It gives off massive amounts of radiation that make it dangerous for anyone to approach it and there isn't advanced enough technology to be able to track the radiation. The Artifact itself exists outside of space-time. It serves as an antenna for the Akashic Field, a zero-point subspace nexus for all the knowledge of the universe.
The Artifact was stored in Section 5 of Global Dynamics where it was studied by Nathan Stark, Kim Anderson and other top scientists. The Artifact is destroyed during an attempt to extract a piece of it, which also results in the death of Kim. In an alternate time line, Henry Deacon is able to use the Artifact sample to time travel back to before the incident and prevent the explosion that killed his wife.
The Artifact was created in the universe preceding the Big Bang. After the crucible of the Big Bang, the Artifact's unique nature protected it, and it somehow landed on Earth, and was buried for millions upon millions of years.
Global Dynamics, the leading technological development firm on industrialized Earth, eventually discovered and excavated the Artifact and somehow transported it to Eureka, Oregon, and encased it in a shielded underground chamber in Section 5, the most highly-secured area of Global Dynamics HQ. How they managed to do this is unknown.
Research into the Artifact began at the insistence of its current Research Director; Nathan Stark, who quickly became obsessed with trying to discover what the Artifact was. The Artifact was considered top-secret, but high-ranking members of the government and local scientific communities had knowledge of it.
Stark was the only researcher to allow special access to the Artifact, and on occasion has allowed people to view it, such as Congressman Arnold Faraday. However, the Artifact appears to have a mind of its own, as it cast an energy surge into a laboratory above the chamber it was in, causing Doctor Carl Carlson to evolve rapidly, and eventually drew him into its grasp (either killing him or absorbing him). Shortly before entering the chamber, The Artifact's mind "spoke" to Carlson, who told Stark what the Artifact had revealed to him: that Stark would one day know what it was. Given Stark's current dematerialized state, this suggests that either the Artifact has temporal connections or Stark will one day return.
A group called The Consortium is dedicated (for unknown reasons) to keep the Artifact's true nature a secret; their agent, Beverly Barlowe, sabotaged an experiment of Stark's involving taking a sample from the Artifact. This resulted in the death of Kim Anderson, Stark's dismissal, and the apparent death of the Artifact. However, the sample was successfully retrieved and kept out of the Consortium's hands. Stark continued his research into the Artifact with his successor Allison Blake, and the mind and energy of the Artifact transported itself into Kevin Blake to survive.
In the episode God Is In The Details Kevin mysteriously heals Allison right before she dies, although for some reason it was at the exact moment that the machine making her sick was turned off. Nathan Stark believes it was Kevin but this has not been confirmed. Later after Church, Nathan mentions to Allison that Kevin now "controls the field". In the events of All That Glitters... and A Night At Global Dynamics, Henry Deacon aligns himself with Beverly, who wanted to kidnap Kevin, in order to enact his own plan to separate the boy from the artifact. They fake a flesh-eating virus in order to trigger a lockdown that sends the director's office underground to a teleportation device. Since the teleportation device must filter the atoms in order to remake the body being teleported, Henry realized that if Kevin goes through it he will be separated from the field. This turns out to be true, for when Kevin is teleported to another room in the bunker, the field is separated.
Since the alteration to the timeline in Season 4 it is possible the Artifact may still be active and contained in Global, but it has not been mentioned since.
- It was never mentioned if Carl Carlson actually died from exposure to the artifact, but Beverly Barlowe hints that he is most likely already dead.
- It is unknown why Kevin Blake evolved so slowly while Carl Carlson did in what was possibly a manner of few days. It is possibly because of Kevin's autism, but this was never gone into and didn't seem to be a topic of interest for the characters.
- The Artifact is never mentioned in Seasons 4 and 5.