I think my favorite artifact story is Pohl's Heechee
saga, exploring Gateway
station and trying to figure out the controls of the docked ships was really great scifi fun, and the interspersed chapters of the protagonist bickering with his software therapist made sure it wasn't dry on the human element side either. And there's always Rendezvous with Rama
of course. SCE
did this kind of stuff regularly by its very nature, I still want it back ...