“Provenience: The precise location where an artifact or archaeological sample was recovered archaeologically. Provenance: The detailed history of where an artifact has been since its creation.
Take as an example a Roman coin. The provenance of that coin could include its creation in a mint in Italy, its loss in a shipwreck off Alexandria, its recovery by shell divers, its purchase first by an antiques dealer, then by a tourist who left it to her son who eventually sold it to a museum. The artifact’s archaeological provenience would be the location in the shipwreck where it was found.
When archaeologists lament about the loss of provenience from a looted art object, what we really mean is that part of the provenance has been lost—we are interested in how the coin got from the Roman mint into the museum; while art historians don’t really care, since they can generally figure out what mint a coin came from. … provenance for an art historian is important to establish ownership, but provenance is interesting to an archaeologist to establish meaning.
As reader Eric P so elegantly put it, provenience is an artifact’s birthplace, while provenance is an artifact’s resume.”