During his excavations at Gagarino in 1968, L.M. Tarassov discovered a cylindrical ivory "baguette" on which were sculpted two human forms (Figure 1) that were immediately seen by Tarassov to be joined at the head. Although this "double figurine" (Tarassov 1971) was never analyzed or published with techniques now available, it has over the years been the inspiration for some rather picturesque interpretations, most of them based on the presumption that the piece was a finished work.
While accepting that this was an object abandoned before being completed, Tarassov (1971:159) himself went to great lengths to argue that when finished the two figures would have remained attached by the tops of their heads. In support of this argument he observed that 1) there was no advantage to working two figurines at the same time, as a single fracture during manufacture could destroy both statuettes, 2) economizing on ivory was not a satisfactory explanation because sites on the Russian Plain had an abundance of ivory, and 3) the incision between the heads was uniformly deep and very regular along its entire length. Tarassov (1971) went so far as to relate this head-to-head position to the adolescent double burial at Sungir (Bader 1970, 1978; White 1993, 1997) in which two individuals were interred with the tops of their heads touching.
In the context of a broader, long-term study of the technology of female statuette production on the Russian Plain and elsewhere (Bisson and White 1996; White 1992, 1996), I had the opportunity to examine this Gagarino object (one of fourteen anthropomorphic figurines from the site) at various magnifications and to take several dozen high quality micro- and macro-photographs. However, microscopic analysis in itself is incapable of serving as the basis for informed technological analysis. The detailed interpretation presented below would have been impossible had I not also performed 1) similar close readings of more than 75 other anthropomorphic statuettes over the past five years, and 2) more than 15 years of experimental bone, antler and ivory working (see for example White 1982; O'Farrell and White 1997) that allowed me to interpret specific tool marks and other stigmata observable on this artifact.
Based on a fine-grained morphological, technological and contextual description of the piece in question, I contend that neither sculpted human figure on the Gagarino baton even approaches a state of completion, although one is certainly more finished than the other. I see in this object, an unfinished or interrupted project (22,000 years ago) to sculpt two individual figurines from a single ivory support. Possible motivations for doing so on the part of the sculptor will be addressed below.