To recover artifacts, you need to collect artifact fragments. Fragments are found in digsites visible on your map. When you reach a dig site, use the Survey ability. Your survey tool will indicate the approximate direction and distance to the cache of fragments. You can collect fragments three times in a dig site before you need to move to a new digsite. Once you have enough fragments, you can solve an artifact to learn a little more about Azeroth's past. Happy hunting!
Fossils are the preserved remains of animals or plants from the ancient past. Typically the living tissues are replaced with minerals that preserve the form of the original organism.
The tol'vir were originally stone constructs created by the titans to safeguard the secrets of Uldum. They possess feline lower bodies and heads as well as human torsos. Like many other titan creations, the tol'vir succumbed to the curse of flesh. Three tribes exist in the present day: Ramkahen, Orsis (nearly wiped out) and Neferset. The latter tribe has allied with Deathwing in order to regain the tol'vir's stone form.
The kaldorei are one of the most ancient races of Azeroth. One of the darkest moments in their history occurred when the quel'dorei, or Highborne - the highest caste of elven nobility - unleashed dangerous magic that brought the Burning Legion into the world and resulted in countless deaths.
The nerubians are descended from an ancient race known as the aqir, roughly half of which migrated far to the north after continual warfare with the trolls. There they founded a gigantic city-state below Northrend, the legendary Azjol-Nerub. The arrival of the Lich King was brutally hard on the wicked nerubian race, with many of the spiderlike creatures converted to the Scourge and others driven deep into hiding.
The earliest known trolls belonged to the Zandalar tribe, from which all other trolls are descended. The Zandalari were regarded as an overarching priest caste for all trolls and worked tirelessly to record and preserve troll society and traditions. Of the many tribes that split off from the Zandalari, the two most dominant were the Gurubashi and Amani.
The dwarves of Ironforge were originally composed of three clans: the Bronzebeards, the Wildhammers and the Dark Irons. As the result of a civil war, the Bronzebeards were left in control of the city of Ironforge while the Wildhammers eventually retreated to the Hinterlands and Twilight Highlands. The Dark Iron dwarves came to dwell in between the Redridge Mountains and the Burning Steppes, in the shadow of Blackrock Mountain.
The vrykul are a race of giant warriors native to the Howling Fjord in Northrend. They have a close affinity with the sea and with native proto-drakes. Many vrykul were absorbed into the vast armies of the Lich King.
The draenei were originally eredar who fled from the Burning Legion and settled on the world of Draenor, where they came into contact with the orcs. When the blood elves arrived, many draenei fled again, this time coming to Azeroth, where they joined the Alliance.
The orcs of Azeroth originally inhabited the world of Draenor, the source of most of these ancient orcish artifacts. At first, orcs were a largely peaceful people, but they turned to outright barbarity under the influence of the Burning Legion. The orcs arrived in Azeroth through the Dark Portal and fought against the Alliance in two wars. Another may be on the horizon.
Reference: wowhead, wowbox.