There have been some exciting finds on the Sunshine Coast (northeastern Strait of Georgia) in shíshálh First Nation territory, including a 4,000 year old burial with over 350,000 beads (!), as this short news item explains (PDF). This is notable for a bunch of reasons:
Firstly, each bead represents a significant investment of labour. Even if we conservatively say that you can make a small stone or shell bead in 5 minutes, then at 12 beads per hour, the individual was buried with some 29,000 person hours of labour investment. That’s about 194 person-months of work, or just over 16 years of full time employment for one person. (Incidentally, the five minutes is less than half the time UVIC’s own Brian Thom estimates from a brief experiment in Chapter V, here.) However we may conceptualize the concepts of “work” and “effort” and their relationship to wealth or prestige in the past, we can’t just write off the full time labour of one person for 16 years, or 16 people for one year. That’s a huge investment of time which could otherwise be used for fishing, hunting, gathering, or creating useful or durable technologies such as houses, canoes, or what have you. Such measures of labour investment are commonly, if sometimes simplistically, used to gauge the importance of the deceased individual in both life and death. Apparently, in addition to this individual, there are other burials, including a young woman buried in a similar manner, from the site (DjRw-14).