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#24 - Over 40,000 lead seals from the early Byzantine Empire

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Complete Question Explanation

Strengthen—%/#. The correct answer choice is (A)

The argument in the stimulus is structured as follows:

    Premise: ..... Over 40,000 lead seals from the early Byzantine Empire remain today.

    Premise: ..... Most seals had served their purpose once the document to which they were
    ..... ..... ..... attached was opened.

    Premise: ..... Most seals were recast after they had served their purpose.

    Conclusion: ..... The number of early Byzantine documents sealed in such a fashion must have
    ..... ..... ..... been many times the number of remaining lead seals.

The author argues that since most seals would have been recast once they had served their purpose,
we would expect that the number of documents sealed in such a fashion would be far greater than the
number of lead seals remaining today (presumably, because most seals would have been “recycled”
and used on a number of different documents). The argument assumes, of course, that at least some
of the documents sealed in such a fashion were opened during that period, so that the seals would
have been recast once they had served their purpose.

Answer choice (A): This is the correct answer choice. If most of the lead seals produced during
the early Byzantine Empire were affixed to documents that were then opened during that period, this
would support the theory that most of the seals would have served their purpose at least once, and
therefore recast. As a result, for each recycled seal we would have at least two documents, proving
that the number of early Byzantine documents sealed in such a fashion exceeds the number of
remaining lead seals.

Answer choice (B): At first glance, this answer choice may seem attractive. Indeed, if most of the
lead seals produced during the early Byzantine Empire were affixed to documents that have since
been destroyed, this would suggest that there were probably more lead seals than the number of
remaining documents would indicate today.

The conclusion we need to strengthen, however, is that the number of documents sealed during
the early Byzantine Empire must have been greater than the number of lead seals remaining today.
Clearly, this answer choice is a Shell Game that cannot support the exact conclusion of the argument.
There is no reason to expect that destroying a document would have the same effect as opening it.
Consequently, it would be wrong to assume that any seal affixed to such a document would have
been recast and used on new documents after the destruction of the original one.

Furthermore, the word “since” in this answer choice implies that the destruction of the documents
took place after the end of the early Byzantine Empire, when the seal-recycling program may no
longer be in effect.

Answer choice (C): The amount of lead available for seals in the early Byzantine Empire has no
bearing on the issue at hand. This answer choice is incorrect.

Answer choice (D): This answer choice suggests that at most 40,000 documents sealed during the
early Byzantine Empire were important enough that their seals would not have been recast. But if
the majority of lead seals remaining today were never recast, this would only weaken the conclusion
of the argument as it would suggest that the number of early Byzantine documents sealed in such a
fashion was approximately equal to the number of remaining lead seals.

Answer choice (E): Even if there were fewer than 40,000 seals affixed to documents at any given
time during the early Byzantine Empire, this would not mean that any of the 40,000 seals remaining
today had been recycled and used multiple times. It is entirely possible that each seal was only used
once, just not all at the same time.
stsai
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Q24. "Over 40,000 lead seals..."
I chose (B) and cannot see why (A) is the right answer. (B) seems right for if there are more documents destroyed by now, it means that the current amount of seals remained represents a smaller portion of documents once existed, right?


Thanks so much!
Nikki Siclunov
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The argument is structured as follows:

Premise: 40,000+ lead seals remain today

Premise: Most seals had served their purpose when the document was opened

Premise: Most lead seals would have been recast once they had served their purpose.

Conclusion: # of early Byzantine documents > # of remaining lead seals

The argument assumes, of course, that at least some of the documents affixed with such seals were opened, so that the seals would have been recast once they had served their purpose. If (A) most of the lead seals produced were affixed to documents that were then opened, this would support the theory that most of the seals would have served their purpose at least once, and therefore recast. As a result, for each such seal we'd have at least two documents, proving that the number of documents exceeds the number of remaining lead seals.

Just because most of the seals were affixed to documents that have since been destroyed (B) does not prove that the seals would have been recast. They would be recast once they had served their purpose, i.e. when the document was opened. Destroying a document doesn't mean the seal actually served its purpose, so there is no evidence each seal was used multiple times. Furthermore, the word "since" in this answer choice implies that the destruction of the documents took place mostly after the early Byzantine Empire.

The only thing B proves is that there were more lead seals produced during the early Byzantine Empire than the number of remaining documents today is likely to suggest. The conclusion, however, is that the number of documents sealed in this fashion must have been greater than the number of remaining lead seals.
Nikki Siclunov
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eober
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Hi,

What would be a good prephrase for this question?

Also, how does answer choice A strengthen the argument that "number of sealed documents that have been recast once must have been more than 40,000"?

Thanks!
BethRibet
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Hi eober,

It would be hard to anticipate a close-fitting prephrase that would help in this particular case, but a more general one would be something like: What would help ensure that the number of lead seals ever used far exceeded those remaining?

The crucial detail here is the phrase "served their purpose". If A were *not* true, then we would have a bunch of documents that remained sealed until later times, which means they might have been exempted from the process of recycling/re-casting seals once the documents were opened, and could still exist. If that were often true, then the number in existence now might be closer to the number used at the time. Answer choice A closes off that loophole or flaw, essentially, making the conclusion more certain.

Hope this helps!
Beth