Recent archeological research offers revolutionary insight about the precursor of abstract counting and pictographic as well as ideographic writing. This precursor was a data processing system in which simple (and later complex) clay tokens of various shapes were aggregated in hollow clay receptacles or envelopes (and later sealed string systems) to represent symbolically assets and economic transactions. Scores of such tokens (the recent explanation of which is due to Prof. Schmandt-Besserat) were found by archeologists all over the Fertile Crescent in layers belonging to the time between 8000 B.C. to 3100 B.C. : after this date cuneiform clay tablets emerged.
"Prehistoric accounting and the problem of representation: On recent archeological evidence of the Middle-East from 8000 B.C. to 3000 B.C.,"
Accounting Historians Journal: Vol. 14
, Article 5.
Available at: https://egrove.olemiss.edu/aah_journal/vol14/iss2/5