I recently realized that digging is a pointlessly inefficient way of gathering artifacts. Or at least the random digging in the middle of nowhere. There are better ways!
For starters, there are more than a few animated fossils in Tanaris. These should be able to be surveyed. Kill them and pick out the bones that look the oldest. Or the ones that best fit your preexisting idea of how the world came to be. Fortunately we don't have carbon-dating, so this method still works. These can be called pre-dug, or self-digging fossils.
But these fossils are dirty. And besides, what if you want something other than fossil artifacts? That doesn't even make sense, since artifacts are artificial. Then again, so are our interpretations of fossils. But I digress. Let's see, where can we find dwarf and fossil artifacts, nicely dug up for us? Ironforge, of course. Yes, I propose that Horde in general, and Alliance rogues in specific, be able to rob the museum of Ironforge. For good measure, the Stormwind library as well.
To keep things balanced, the Alliance will have every opportunity to take any artifacts that the Horde trolls have managed to recover from their more savage cousins.
Of course Outland is a free-for-all of looting gravesites. Why bother with random artifact spawns when you can simply dig up everything and find something?
The night elves should not be left out, so I propose that players be able to simply dig up the many ruins scattered around the everywhere.
But let's face it, these are still all very inefficient. I mean, why wait for artifacts to get old before taking them? We have access to the Caverns of Time. While so far we've only gone as far back as the first invasion of the Orcs, I see no reason that we could not go further back. You might call it time travel and theft, but I call it preemptive archaeology.