This map is by no means comprehensive and is not meant to be. In order to obtain every artifact spawn location you would need the data gathered by many thousands of players over time, which is currently in progress. This is simply meant to show the concentrated areas of artifact spawns, allowing the hunter to find the most efficient path to the most spawns. I did not record all of the coordinates because I did not feel it prudent, however for my next map I will so that they may be entered in to one of the existing maps/databases. All locations are APPROXIMATE and you may have to look under, around, inside, behind or above things in order to locate the artifact in question. Most, if not all, of the information gleaned from the past few days of gathering artifacts is INCONCLUSIVE at best, and nothing should be assumed to be 100% true.
Okay, so as you can see the majority of the spawns are in the upper two-thirds of the map, however there is a large chunk down in the lower starting area. The path I followed the majority of the time was starting at the Eastern edge and working my way up the mountains towards the back edge of the map, once I hit Gloamwood I would move down along the Western edge until I hit the starting areas below Argent Glade. This allowed me to pick up a majority of the spawns in the mountains and then move down in to the lower cluster. I would sometimes swing down in to the Realm of the Fae garden area before continuing along the top edge. However due to the amount of mobs and less than optimal terrain this was mostly done every other round or so just to get spawns that may have been sitting around awhile. Riding the edges also allows you to avoid many of the areas filled with creatures that will dismount you, or even kill you.
When I was hunting the rare spawns for the achievement I would cut out the Western edge near Gloamwood and go directly across the upper road that runs below Palisade and Realm of the Fae. This was so I could check for Werewolf at the far West, Vengeful Spirit under Palisade, Brod and Malrog in the treant area, and finally Mok to the North East before heading back in to the mountains.
Whatever route you choose there are plenty of concentrated clusters for you to get creative with, but I would choose something with as little resistance in the form of mobs as possible.
Why are some areas so empty?
I'm not sure, it could have been high traffic, or bad luck with getting spawns as I moved through certain areas, but with the exception of Palisade, Mirror of the Ages, and the Aelfwar courtyard, I covered every bit of this map extensively for the past 3 days straight. So it is unlikely that I simply "missed" some spawns by not going in their area. I only went through the other aforementioned areas a few times for the sake of getting as many spawns as possible for the map.
Is there a pattern, or are they all random?
While I do not see any discernible method to the madness, other than them being hidden in cracks, crevices, and holes, the spawn points seem to be static as you will often find the same artifact in the same location. (Hence the point of this map.)
How are the type of artifact and rarity determined?
There are several theories going around, but after considering most of them, I am 90% certain it is COMPLETELY RANDOM. I was willing to give consideration to the "aging" theory until this morning when only after 10 minutes of the server being back up I looted a rare blue. We have to assume since it was a restart that ALL spawn points were new, and could not have been sitting around long enough to age in to the rare. One could argue that perhaps some artifacts are originally seeded as rares, while the others must mature in to them, but Occam's Razor applied here would lead us to believe this is over thinking the situation.
At this point the only other theory I am willing to entertain is that harder to reach areas may have a slightly better chance to yield an uncommon, or rare. Of the seven rares I looted personally, 4 came from the cliffs of the mountainous border, and 3 from down in Silverwood. So one more loot within Silverwood would have made it dead even at 50%, which would dictate more to the fact it is random and the chances are equal all over the map.
Aging, the artifact can start as a common, and mature in to a rare.
Location based, artifacts are assigned according to where they are located on the map. (I found no discernible pattern among them to substantiate this.)
Harder to reach, better chance for a rare, this started from someone reading in to a game tip which states that almost exactly. However I feel this was alluding more towards the fact that you can find the puzzles and cairns in less traveled areas.
Again, until Trion give a definitive answer, this is all speculation and inconclusive "evidence" to suggest any of these are the case.
Do restarts affect the spawns?
As far as I could gather, only insofar as they reset them. I do not believe there is a better chance to loot rares after a restart from my experiences this morning.
When is the best time to hunt?
Obviously when there is low traffic and less people running through the zone, but since this isn't exactly a popular way to waste hours of your game time, just about any time of day will suffice with little to no competition, especially seeing as there are many spawns. The most highly sought after artifacts are the ones in the mountains since there are usually a good deal spawned together, and one pass through the top section can give you anywhere from 2 or 3, to 8 or 9ish, depending.
Why do you think you are the greatest artifact hunter in the world?
I am, and that's all there is to it. I am also your doctor, do what I tell you.
In summation, again I must highlight the fact that none of this is conclusive (other than the spawn points themselves) and some information could end up being inaccurate. I will not be able to edit this, so please verify with later posts in thread (should it be around that long) to make sure any pertinent information remains accurate to a degree.