Between the Desert and the Nile. Theban Harbours and Waterscapes

The West Bank of Thebes

The West Bank of Thebes

Back in 2011 the Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey (THaWS) started with a field season of geophysics. This Egypt Exploration Society project (www.ees.ac.uk), directed by Dr Angus Graham,  was established with the aim of using different techniques to study the settlements and temples on the east and west banks of the Nile, and how they relate to the changing floodplain and river. Unfortunately the season had to be aborted after the 25th January revolution, and the survey was postponed to the 2012 season, when the fieldwork progressed at a cracking pace.

After five years of the project a large quantity of survey data, together with sedimentary data from auger samples, has been collected and is pushing forward some tentative interpretations about the archaeology and geomorphology of the area. Fieldwork in areas as diverse as Malqata, Birket Habu and the floodplain in front of Kom El Hetan and the Ramesseum has provided food for thought on the depth of ancient ground levels and the organisation of the waterways on the West Bank, with interesting results from some of the East Bank work, including Karnak.

For the 2015 season the fieldwork has shifted up a notch with a larger and more diverse team. The plan was to run different geophysical survey techniques, while also continuing the auger sample strategy and processing of samples from the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Work has very much focused on Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) surveys on the West Bank, particularly in the area to the east of the Ramesseum heading up to the current course of the Nile, with Ginger Emery working on the instrument. This has been complemented by an intensive season of auger work conducted by Ben Pennington and Willem Toonen, to investigate changes in the sediments represented in the ERT.

ERT survey under way on the West Bank

ERT survey under way on the West Bank

Auger work along ERT profile 32, West Bank

Auger work along ERT profile 32, West Bank

The survey has allowed a solid dataset to be collected running from c.600m to the east of the Ramesseum all the way the the modern banks of the Nile, with the resistivity and auger data integrating to allow some more nuanced interpretations of the development of the floodplain and the presence of possible man-made canals to be ascertained. The work in this area relates closely to the function of temples further to the south between the Birket Habu and the Ramesseum.

ERT profile running at the foot of the Colossi of Memnon, Kom El Hetan

ERT profile running at the foot of the Colossi of Memnon, Kom El Hetan

This week we have focused the work in the area of Kom El Hetan. Previous seasons provided information on the axis of theTemple of Amenhotep and the possible presence of channels associated with the temple. The aim this week has been to expand on this information with more intensive ERT and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey in the area.

ERT survey at Kom El Hetan

ERT survey at Kom El Hetan

Hopefully by the end of the week we will have a series of close (5m) profiles of ERT data to model, and GPR data at 0.5m intervals across the front of the Colossi, in the first court, and in the third court for comparison, with a second plan to conduct more GPR profiles in the fields to the south to detect the possible enclosure of the temple. It promises to be an exciting week.

There have been trials and tribulations in the fieldwork, including negotiations with landowners, and issues with the burning of sugar cane chaff during the first two weeks. There have also been compensations, not least in the form of tea and cake, the latter being provided by the wife of Sumara, one of our workmen.

Burning sugar cane chaff promises to engulf the ERT equipment

Burning sugar cane chaff promises to engulf the ERT equipment

Husam cuts the cake provided by Sumara's wife. One of the perks of fieldwork in Egypt!

Husam cuts the cake provided by Sumara’s wife. One of the perks of fieldwork in Egypt!

The fieldwork will be carrying on at Thebes until 1st April. However, results from the previous seasons of work are presented in the last three editions of the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, and in other papers listed below. Happy reading!

 

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. 2012, The Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey. Recent Fieldwork to Investigate the Canals and Harbours on the West and East Banks at Ancient Thebes (Luxor), Egypt. The Newsletter of the International Society for Archaeological Prospection 31, April 2012, 6-7.

Graham,A., Strutt, K., Hunter, M., Jones, S., Masson, A., Millett, M., Pennington, B. 2012, Reconstructing Landscapes and Waterscapes in Thebes, Egypt. In Journal for Ancient Studies eTopoi, 3, 135-142.

Graham, A., Strutt, K.D., Hunter, M. , Jones, S., Masson, A., Millet, M., and Pennington, B.T. 2012, Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey, 2012. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 98, 27-42.

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. 2013, Ancient Theban Temple and Palace Landscapes. In Egyptian Archaeology 43, Autumn 2013, 5-7.

Graham, A, Strutt, K., Emery, V.L., Jones, S. and Barker, D. 2014, Theban Harbours and Waterscapes Survey, 2013. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 99, 35-52.

Graham, A. and Strutt, K. (forthcoming), Ancient Theban Temple and Palace Landscapes. Egyptian Archaeology. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 100.

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Old Sarum Update

For the last few weeks a fair amount of preparation has been undertaken by various members of staff at the University of Southampton for a press release on the fieldwork conducted at Old Sarum (see previous blog post https://kdstrutt.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/in-the-castle-called-seresberi-old-sarum-and-a-new-survey-of-the-inner-and-outer-baileys/). Peter Franklin and colleagues at the press office have worked hard to produce the finished story, and today things finally came together with a bit of a whirlwind of media attention. The finds of the project to date illustrate the potential of non-intrusive archaeological methodologies to elucidate on the archaeology of a particular site or landscape, without harming the material culture and with some strong underlying scientific concepts on which to base  some degree of interpretation and narrative.

Greyscale image of the magnetometry from the south of the outer bailey (top) and the interpretation plot for the data overlaid on LiDAR for the area (© LiDAR data Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2014. All rights reserved.)

Greyscale image of the magnetometry from the south of the outer bailey (top) and the interpretation plot for the data overlaid on LiDAR for the area (© LiDAR data Environment Agency copyright and/or database right 2014. All rights reserved.)

The step from geophysical survey data to coherent archaeological narrative is a big one, and one of the reasons that our interpretations to date err on the side of caution. What is apparent from the results is the urban plan of a substantial medieval city, and an array of different forms of structure and associated features in the outer bailey at Old Sarum. Hopefully the results and their wider dissemination at this stage will help to generate interest in the site, the methodology used, and the wider applications of these approaches to archaeological research.

To date the results have been reported in a number of sources. Online the sources include:

BBC News   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-30300837

The Independent   http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/archaeologists-find-vast-medieval-palace-buried-under-prehistoric-fortress-at-old-sarum-9898759.html

The Telegraph   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/archaeology/11269753/Medieval-city-uncovered-by-archaeologists-and-not-a-spade-in-sight.html

More will hopefully follow tomorrow. Above all else the results show the pertinence of student involvement in research-led teaching, from developing an understanding of the archaeological and scientific theory for the work, to dealing with practical aspects of survey and undertaking fieldwork, to being involved in the processing and interpretation of data. The results at Old Sarum are testament to the peerless hard work and dedication of the students on the project, as well as the staff involved in their supervision.

Notes:

For images or for interviews with Kris Strutt, please contact Peter Franklin, Media Relations, University of Southampton. Tel: 023 8059 5457 email: franklin@southampton.ac.uk

For more information about the Archaeological Prospection Service of Southampton (APSS) visit:http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/research/groups/archaeological_prospection_service_southampton.page

 

For more about the Old Sarum and Stratford-Sub-Castle Archaeological Survey Project visit: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/research/projects/old_sarum_and_stratford_sub_castle.page

 

For more information about Archaeology at Southampton visit: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archaeology/index.page

For more information about English Heritage visit: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/

Through world-leading research and enterprise activities, the University of Southampton connects with businesses to create real-world solutions to global issues. Through its educational offering, it works with partners around the world to offer relevant, flexible education, which trains students for jobs not even thought of. This connectivity is what sets Southampton apart from the rest; we make connections and change the world. http://www.southampton.ac.uk/

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/weareconnected

 

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Abu Dhabi Islands Survey Part One

In October a survey team from the University of Southampton were involved in an archaeological and geophysical survey in collaboration with the Maritime Archaeology Stewardship Trust (MAST) and Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture (ADTCA). Research was carried out on the islands of Sir Bani Yas and Marawah investigating a range of different sites. The ‘Ubaid settlements and archaeology on Marawah will be the subject of the next blog. The Bronze Age and pre-Islamic archaeology of Sir Bani Yas will be covered here.

Member of the survey team - Ahmad, Waleed and Abdallah - on the ferry heading for Sir Bani Yas

Member of the survey team – Ahmad, Waleed and Abdallah – on the ferry heading for Sir Bani Yas

The only way to arrive on Sir Bani Yas is by the ferry normally used for workers and tourists heading to the island. The journey of a few hours takes you to an island some 11km across, used as a nature reserve to attract tourists to the area. As with many of the islands along the coast of the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, archaeological remains on Sir Bani Yas include Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements, and sites of pre-Islamic and Islamic date. The 2014 season of work was used to record archaeological sites across the island using handheld GPS, for comparison with the resords of the Abu Dhabi Islands Survey (ADIAS) database fro mthe 1990s. In addition geophysical survey of two of the main sites was undertaken; at a Bronze Age site close to the island’s airport, and at the Eastern or Nestorian church site on the eastern side of the island.

Discussing the survey strategy for the Nestorian church site

Discussing the survey strategy for the Nestorian church site

Excavations of the church, now under protective shelter

Excavations of the church, now under protective shelter

The central area of the Nestorian church site, comprising the church and some possible lodgings, have already been excavated and rendered for 3D modelling, and a video covering the site can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyaTeoCmuLM. The purpose of the geophysical survey was to investigate the possibility of buried structures associated with the church using GPR and magnetometry.

GPR survey under way with Chris Healey and Waleed

GPR survey under way with Chris Healey and Waleed

Jack Hill getting to grips with the magnetometry

Jack Hill getting to grips with the magnetometry

The survey results indicated that the area to the south of the church is devoid of structural remains. However, the areas to the north and north-west give evidence of a continuation of structures, with a possible small courtyard to the west of the entrance to the church. In fact the tooography of the site beyond the modern enclosure suggests the extension of the site northwards, with pottery to the north and the location of a possible courtyard house downslope to the north.

Gridding our using RTK GPS

Gridding out using RTK GPS

In addition to the Nestorian church, a Bronze Age site was also surveyed using GPR and magnetometry. The site was thought to be a possible tomb, although evidence of bloom or slag on the survey may indicate that it is a working site of some description. Evidence of a possible kerb along one edge is plausible.

Jack Hill carrying out GPR survey on the Bronze Age site

Jack Hill carrying out GPR survey on the Bronze Age site

GPR and magnetometer survey were carried out over the area. We also conducted some photography for rectification, usig a series of markers and a monopod with DSLR camera. The plan was to produce a topographic model and plan of the visible stones of the site on the surface, and compare these with the results of the geophysical survey.

 

One of the monopod photographs for rectification

One of the monopod photographs for rectification

Detail of the GPR survey results

Detail of the GPR survey results

The survey results indicated a sub-circular stone structure, some 6m across, with a further possible working area to the south and west, and gullies or small ditches enclosing the features. We still need to map the results with the plot of stones on the surface to fully understand the nature of the site, however, it is looking more like a possible prehistoric working site, possibly for smelting copper.

The survey results from Sir Bani Yas really illustrated the potential of the archaeology of the island, and the geophysics together with the mapping of the sites suggests some possible outlets for future research. For those interested in the prehistory of the Abu Dhabi islands, however, the work on Marawah provides a wonderful example of the ‘Ubaid Neolithic in this area, more on that in the next blog!

Sunrise over the lagoons along the eastern side of Sir Bani Yas

Sunrise over the lagoons along the eastern side of Sir Bani Yas

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Blog Catch-up #2: Archaeological Survey at Buraimi Oasis

Having spent the day at British Museum a few Saturdays ago during the Seminar for Arabian Studies (https://www.thebfsa.org/) reminded me that we had conducted a survey at Buraimi Oasis earlier in the year. A paper was given on the results of the survey and the overall fieldwork, conducted by Zayed University, Abu Dhabi (http://www.zu.ac.ae/main/en/), ADTCA (http://tcaabudhabi.ae/en) and Sultan Qaboos University (http://www.squ.edu.om/) in Oman, by Dr Tim Power of Zayed University. I was involved in conducting the topographic and geophysical survey at the Oasis, and this seems like a good opportunity to put up a post on the work.

Street of the Late Islamic oasis town, showing remnants of shops and other buildings

Street of the Late Islamic oasis town, showing remnants of shops and other buildings

Buraimi Oasis is located in the north of Oman, forming part of an oasis group spanning the border between Oman and Abu Dhabi. The archaeology of the region is rich, including Palaeolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Early and Late Islamic archaeology. The earliest dated feature in the vicinity of the survey area is the so-called ‘Qaṭṭara Tomb,’ which lies immediately adjacent to the UAE border fence close to Buraimi. and dates to the Wadi Suq period (c. 2000-1300 BC). Pre-Islamic settlement and material at the oases includes material at Qaṭṭara potentially dating to the Parthian period. The Early Islamic landscape of the Oases is marked by a series of falaj providing irrigation to the area with associated settlement and scatters of Early Islamic pottery. In Buraimi Oasis a number of scatters of Early Islamic material have been noted, together with extant structural remains, with ceramics similar to those found elsewhere in the oases. Late Islamic archaeology of the oases is well-represented with continuation of the falaj system of irrigation and the presence of enclosed gardens.

More recent development in the area has led to the building of new houses, supermarkets and hotels, all of which are now encroaching on the incredible archaeology of the oasis. The Buraimi Oasis Landscape Archaeology Project (BOLAP) was established to research the archaeology of the oases and to highlight the need for conservation of the archaeological resource at Buraimi.

Tim Power and Peter Sheehan investigate Early Islamic building remains in the southern part of the oasis

Tim Power and Peter Sheehan investigate Early Islamic building remains in the southern part of the oasis

Drifting sand deposits covering remnants of buildings of Late Islamic date

Drifting sand deposits covering remnants of buildings of Late Islamic date

A preliminary season of fieldwork was conducted at the oasis in the Spring of 2014, directed by Tim Power, and involving fieldwalking, trial trench excavation, together with topographic and geophysical survey. The combined results of the work were presented at the Seminar for Arabian Studies at the British Museum on 26th July 2014, and will appear in the next proceedings of the Seminar. The topographic and geophysical survey, however, provided excellent results with the palimpsest of archaeological material at the oasis visible in the data.

Toographic survey being conducted at Buraimi Oasis

Toographic survey being conducted at Buraimi Oasis

The survey areas were gridded out using an RTK GPS to position pegs at 30m intervals. The GPS was also used to collect spot height data across the different areas with which to build topographic models to compare with the geophysical survey results. Magnetometry and GPR survey were also conducted, with magnetometry being undertaken over all of the different sample areas, and the GPR survey being targeted over features of particular interest.

Magnetometer survey under way

Magnetometer survey under way

String moving on the Early Islamic centre of the oasis with the GPR pictured

String moving on the Early Islamic centre of the oasis with the GPR pictured

The nature of the archaeology can be seen on the surface of the ground across large parts of the oasis. A number of mounds with liberal scatters of Iron Age pottery are located in the area, and the Early Islamic and Late Islamic remains of enclosed gardens, buildings and the falaj irrigation systems can also be seen in part, indicating a complex system of habitation, land use and irrigation dating back thousands of years. The modern UAE-Oman border cuts across the oases, so many of the features visible at Buraimi continue on the other side of the border fence.

Remains of Late Islamic building visible on the surface of the ground

Remains of Late Islamic building visible on the surface of the ground

Thuqb, or shafts for the falaj visible to the west of extant building remains at Buraimi

Thuqb, or shafts, for the falaj visible to the west of extant building remains at Buraimi

The results of the field season, and the topographic and geophysical surveys, indicate in part the phases of settlement across the survey areas, with walls, enclosures, falaj and other features clearly visible over what is now open terrain. The results of the survey, combined with air photographic imagery and the excellent results of the field surface collection and analysis conducted by Tim Power, Peter Sheehan and students from Zayed University, provide a layered dataset for analysis demonstrate the long and varied pattern of settlement in the oasis.

 

Detail of a small part of the magnetometer survey from Buraimi Oasis, showing the complexity and varied nature of archaeological features in the area

Detail of a small part of the magnetometer survey from Buraimi Oasis, showing the complexity and varied nature of archaeological features in the area

Detail of the interpretation of the same area, comparing the geophysics with the topographic survey results

Detail of the interpretation of the same area, comparing the geophysics with the topographic survey results

Results of the survey really highlight the amazing preservation of parts of the oasis archaeology, but also helps to underline the threat posed to this resource from future development and the need for a conservation strategy. Fortunately, as could be seen from the paper given at the Seminar, nascent conservation plans are being considered, and hopefully future work at Buraimi will produce a comprehensive assessment of the state and nature of the archaeology.

 

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Magnetometer Survey at Basing Common

After the successes of the surveys and excavation at Basing House in 2014, a second season of work is being conducted by the Basing House CAT project (http://basinghouseproject.org/) directed by Nicole and Gareth Beale. Work on the excavation is ongoing, and can be seen on the project blog. In addition to this work, however, further geophysical survey is also being conducted on Basing Common.

Elliot surveying the possible location of the siege camp on Basing Common using a magnetometer, with Basing House within the trees in the background

Elliot surveying the possible location of the siege camp on Basing Common using a magnetometer, with Basing House within the trees in the background

A combination of geophysics and metal detecting is being used over the area to provide information on the location of the Parliamentarian siege camp established in the area during the siege of Basing House. Work started today with Dominic Barker, the author, and a team of students and volunteers. Dom and others involved in the survey will be posting blogs in the coming weeks. However, the survey started well with a grid being established in the southern part of the Common.

Dom Barker gridding out using a GPS

Dom Barker gridding out using a GPS

A small area of magnetometry was covered, however, the results seem to indicate the presence of possible anomalies relating to a possible camp, including a broad ditch feature, a possible bastion, and other more ephemeral ditches and pits. The ploughsoil also indicates ferrous material over the area possibly associated with artefacts from the seige. The plan is to use metal detecting to find artefacts across the survey area, with these being bagged up and located using the GPS, allowing their distribution to be compared with the geophysical survey results. Please check back for further developments over the duration of the field season.

 

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Blog Catch-up #1: Archaeology and Survey in the Nile Delta at Naukratis

Due to commitments in the field over the last month or so it has proved difficult to keep up to date with the blog. Now seemed like a good time to produce a few posts to highlight some recent fieldwork and site visits, starting with a recent survey at Naukratis. In May 2014 I conducted geophysical survey at this archaeological site in the Nile Delta. The Naukratis fieldwork project is directed by Ross Thomas of the British Museum, and seeks to assess the surviving archaeology of this important ancient site using a range of complementary methods including topographic and geophysical survey, in addition to borehole survey and excavation, as part of a larger project directed by Alexandra Villing of the Greek and Roman department of the British Museum called ‘Naukratis: Greeks in Egypt’.

Magnetometer survey being conducted to the east of Kom Ge'if

Magnetometer survey being conducted to the east of Kom Ge’if

 

The season in May (the third season of fieldwork) added to the existing dataset from the first two seasons in 2013, mapping the extent of the ancient settlement and its association with the Canopic Branch of the River Nile.

The port of Naukratis was the earliest Greek port in Egypt, established in the late 7th century BC as a base for Greek (and Cypriot) traders and the port of the royal Pharaonic city of Sais. It was an important hub for trade and cross-cultural exchange long before the foundation of Alexandria and continued to be significant through the subsequent Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Previous fieldwork was conducted by Flinders Petrie amongst others, and concentrated on excavation of the central areas of the ancient town. Further research was required to fully understand this very important archaeological site. For this season, the magnetometer survey of the site was continued in the fields surrounding the modern village.

Two ERT profiles were also undertaken using an Allied Associates Tigre ERT. The first of the profiles ran from a point some 400m to the west of the site, over the kom or mound, to a point 400m to the east of the site, incorporating the line of the Canopic Branch of the Nile and Naukratis. This provided a section 15m deep running west-east across the southern part of the site. The main aim was to better understand the geological relationship between the river and the settlement, and to tie the profile in with the series of borehole surveys conducted along the same traverse.

 

Mohamed Roshti assisting with the ERT survey on the kom

Mohamed Roshti assisting with the ERT survey on the kom

The survey work at Naukratis has produced significant new data on the layout of the ancient town, its local environment and hinterland, including the location of the Greek sanctuary complex, the Hellenion, and the Temenos or temple enclosure at the site. The magnetometer results located a large number of mud brick and stone structures in the fields around Kom Ge’if, particularly in the north and east of the site. In addition to the plan of the ancient town, the magnetometer results also give us a much better idea of the extent of the ancient site in relation to the location and development of the Canopic branch of the Nile, which ran to the west of the ancient settlement. The magnetometry clearly shows the change from settlement to canal infilling, with structures positioned along the edge of the canal. This data is reinforced by the results of the ERT survey. The depth of deposits underlying and surrounding Kom Ge’if is suggested by the topography, with a sharp contrast between the kom and the surrounding fields. The remains of the ancient site are present, if buried, but life in the modern village of Kom Ge’if carries on. The village, with its new mosque, stands out from the surrounding floodplain, a mixture of bean fields, and brown ploughed and saturated fields prepared for planting melon. A number of venerable sheikhs’ tombs stand out on the fringes of the village. The local shepherd crosses from field to field, allowing his sheep and goats to graze on the stubble remaining from the wheat harvest, and manuring the fields in the process, then herds the flock back through the winding streets of Kom Ge’if.

 

Detail of survey results from Naukratis

Detail of survey results from Naukratis

Many of the areas of the ancient settlement still require surveying using magnetometry, and a combined strategy of ERT survey with drilling of boreholes will provide useful comparative data for particular parts of the site and its hinterland.

Shepherd leading flock to feed on cut fields

Shepherd leading flock to feed on cut fields

Donkey transport for the ERT

Donkey transport for the ERT

 

More information on the fieldwork at Naukratis can be found on the project website at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/research_projects/all_current_projects/naukratis_the_greeks_in_egypt.aspx

Also, you can discover more about the artefacts recovered from Naukratis by visiting the Online Research Catalogue at:

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/online_research_catalogues/ng/naukratis_greeks_in_egypt.aspx

 

Sunset over Kom Ge'if

Sunset over Kom Ge’if

This post is a reworking of an article recently published in the International Society for Archaeological Prospection (ISAP) Newsletter for May 2014.

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Southampton confirms top 20 status amongst UK universities

Kristian Strutt:

Archaeology and Foresics at 8th place in Southampton.

Originally posted on University of Southampton's Noticeboard:

complete_university_guide_finalThe University has consolidated its position amongst the UK’s top 20 institutions by placing 19th overall in the 2015 Guardian University Guide.

The climb of five places in The Guardian follows Southampton’s rise to 16th in the recent table published by the Complete University Guide.

The news is also good for the University in the The Guardian’s subject tables where Southampton is placed in the top ten in twelve subjects:

Electrical and Electronic Engineering            2

Mechanical Engineering                                       2

Modern Languages & Linguistics                     4

Civil Engineering                                                     5

Art                                                                                  7

Computer Sciences and IT                                  8

Nursing & Midwifery                                             8

Archaeology and Forensic Science                  8

Fashion & Textiles                                                   9

Media and Communications                             9

Education                                                                 10

English & Creative Writing                                10

A number of these areas consistently perform well in The Guardian including Mechanical Engineering which has featured in the top 10 within the Guide for 10 consecutive years. Nursing & Midwifery and Computer…

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