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Abstraction

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A physical object (a possible referent of a concept or word) is considered concrete (not abstract) if it is a particular individual that occupies a particular place and time. However, in the secondary sense of the term 'abstraction', this physical object can carry materially abstracting processes. For example, record-keeping aids throughout the Fertile Crescent included calculi (clay spheres, cones, etc. ) which represented counts of items, probably livestock or grains, sealed in containers. According to Schmandt-Besserat & (1981), these clay containers contained tokens, the total of which were the count of objects being transferred. The containers thus served as something of a bill of lading or an accounts book. In order to avoid breaking open the containers for the count, marks were placed on the outside of the containers. These physical marks, in other words, acted as material abstractions of a materially abstract process of accounting, using conceptual abstractions (numbers) to communicate its meaning.

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