The artifact story predilection goes back to before reading Rama
for me even, I think. I remember growing up watching Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears
cartoon, and there's this episode in which the band of protagonists take an underground railway system (itself left over from a more sophisticated age of Gummi Bear-hood) to the ancient, deserted capital of the once-proud Gummi Bear empire in the hopes of retrieving another copy of an important book that accidentally got destroyed back home. I was hooked
! And then scifi gets to marry that with the intellectual exercise of interesting tech ideas or social reasoning ...