In all of the cases described above, the final form of the bead was embedded in the production process from the very beginning. In other words the reduction sequence was designed with a particular standardized final product in mind. As we have clearly seen at Sungir, the form of that final product was designed with a particular esthetic effect in mind, when conventional modes of ornamental attachment were applied. Thus, we are beginning to gain a glimpse of the technological principles involved in the construction and communication of social identity on a regional scale.
Experiments by Semenov (Mikhailova, personal communication) demonstrated that each of the small ivory beads at Sungir took about 45 minutes to fabricate (an estimate that my experiments suggest to be a severe underestimate). Hence, the man's beadwork took more than 2,000 hours, while that of each child took more than 3,500. Considering additional objects placed on and alongside the corpses, it is clear that each of the childrens' burials had substantially more labor invested in it than that of the man. Based on the differences in grave offerings and labor investment revealed among these burials, we might be justified in drawing the classic inferrence that the social system represented at Sungir was a hierarchical one in which social position was ascribed rather than achieved.
From an evolutionary perspective, this possibility is of capital importance, reaffirming as it does the notion that complex social systems arose prior to and independent from economic systems based on agricultural production; and long before the late glacial maximum at 18,000 B.P.. The evidence from Sungir and the other sites of Aurignacian age attest to a high degree of social and technological complexity from the very beginning of the Upper Paleolithic in Europe. The results presented here make it clear that we can no longer treat personal ornaments as mere trinkets. To the contrary, they were fundamental components of even the earliest Upper Paleolithic social systems.