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Proceedings of the International Conference, 29-30 October 2008 Sofia, Publishing House “St. Ivan Rilski”, Sofia, 29-35.
FORMAL EARLY NEOLITHIC FLINT TOOLKITS: ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND SEDIMENTOLOGICAL ASPECTS
Maria Gurova1, Chavdar Nachev2
Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1000 Sofia; email@example.com Museum “Earth and Man”, 1421 Sofia; firstname.lastname@example.org
ABSTRACT. Bulgarian Early Neolithic chipped stone assemblages reveal coherent and diagnostic flint toolkits for the vast Karanovo I and II cultural area, characterized by high quality yellow-honey coloured flint, quite long and regular blades with (bi)lateral semi-abrupt high retouch and sometimes with rounded or pointed ends, as well as highly (re-)used sickle inserts. One of the most challenging questions in relation to these toolkits is the identification of their raw material outcrops, supplying strategy and the network of their wide scale distribution.
The focus of this study is the diagnostic flint toolkits which form an intrinsic part of the Early Neolithic assemblages of the Karanovo I and II cultures. Apart from their distinctive technotypological and functional features, another key feature is the special raw material from which the toolkits are made: high quality, yellow-honey coloured flint, with sporadic whitish spots (well known and often referred to in the literature as Balkan Platform flint). The complex of significative traits of these toolkits permits their consideration as one of the diagnostic elements of the Early Neolithic material culture (Gurova, 2005). Typologically, these toolkits consist mostly of medium to long, regularly-shaped blades, ranging between 12 and 15 cm long, frequently with (bi-)lateral semi-abrupt retouch (from marginal to high and steep), and sometimes with rounded or pointed ends. Most of the artefacts in these toolkits possess macro- and micro-wear traces of use. The flint assemblages reveal many characteristics of so-called “formal tools” whose production requires a special raw material, advanced preparation, anticipated use and transportability” (Andrefski, 1994, 22). From a technological point of view, this industry indicates the application of indirect percussion (punch technique). Pressure flaking with an organic stick is used for the characteristic high and steep retouching (Fig. 1). It must be stressed that, with only one exception, neither cores nor debitage linked to their preparation are attested among the assemblages. In this sense, any attempt to apply some diacritic concept of chaîne opératoire reconstruction of the toolkits fails. These formal tools are recorded in varying density and quantity among the flint assemblages of many Early Neolithic settlements, some of which had short life-spans, and others reveal only limited archaeological evidence. Only a few sites offer the possibility of studying the formal tools in conditions of changing contextual data. In spite of the fact that an impressive 29
corpus of flint studies has been done over the last two decades, too many questions still arise with regards to these flint toolkits: tracing their (becoming mythologically overexposed!) raw material, its outcrops and procurement strategy; the location of their workshops, identification of their manufacturers (flint knappers) and technological origin; the identification of their distribution and exchange network mechanisms; elucidating their interactions and impacts with adjacent Early Neolithic cultural groups and identities, etc.
Fig. 1. Typological characteristics of the toolkit from Yabalkovo (drawing M. Gurova)
Chronological and spatial features of the formal toolkits
In order to put the discussed problem in adequate chronological framework, we present the division of the Early Neolithic in Bulgaria, according to the recent study on absolute dates (Boyadziev, 1995, 179): Early pottery (‘monochrome” phase) 6300/6200 – 6000/5900 cal BC; Early (‘classical” phase) 6000/5900 – 5500/5450 cal BC. Regarding the time span of the toolkits under discussion and their function, it is useful to point out that they are abundant during the whole “classical” Early Neolithic Karanovo I and II periods of the Tell Karanovo sequence, or until ca 5500 cal BC. On the other hand, in terms of their lasting ‘retardation’ in the same sequence, the end of the Karanovo III period at Tell Karanovo: 5500-5280 cal BC (Görsdorf, 1997, 379) can be regarded as a terminus ante quem for the presence of formal toolkits. Spatial distribution of the formal toolkits Local distribution The formal toolkits are commonly found in the vast area of the Karanovo I and II cultures and their constituent regions in Southern Bulgaria: Thrace – the Tells Azmak, Karanovo and Kapitan Dimitrievo, and the Yabalkovo site; the Northern foothills of the Rhodope Mountains – the Rakitovo site, the Sofia Plain – Slatina; and the valley of Struma – Kovačevo (Fig. 2). The map shows sites in Western Bulgaria, which have been published (Gatsov, 1993). Other research has been undertaken by the author, and some of this work is still in progress (Gurova, 1997, 2001, 2001, 2004, 2005, in press). In North Bulgaria the flint industry exhibits a very different pattern
(exclusively expedient in character and an absence of the formal tools under discussion here), despite the fact that a proportion of the artefacts were made of the same raw material as used for the manufacturing of the discussed formal tools. Two sites belonging to the “monochrome” phase of the Early Neolithic sequence are marked in blue in recognition of their important position in the context of the Neolithisation debate. Supra-regional distribution Formal toolkits as a distinguishable category of the Early Neolithic flint repertoire have never before been discussed in the literature on the complex technological and social dimensions. Nevertheless some aspects of their stylistic ‘coherence’ have often been observed in the course of work on different assemblages from adjacent major cultural areas – Proto-Sesklo, Starčevo and Körös-Criş. The most common feature mentioned in these studies is the presence of raw material from the Pre-Balkan platform among the Early Neolithic assemblages from the Balkans. According to C. Perlès a characteristic feature of the chipped-stone assemblages of Neolithic Greece is the “predominant use of non-local raw materials often obtained from considerable distances” (Perlès, 2001, 201). Recently, interesting and promising research has been done by G. Filippakis on the north Greek Neolithic assemblages, coming from outside the obsidian area. I hope our further study and collaboration will lead to positive issues of reliable comparison of the assemblages from both regions – Bulgarian Thrace and Greek Macedonia.
Fig. 2. Map with Early Neolithic sites: triangles without numbers – western group studied by Gatsov; grey triangles – study and direct observation of the author; numbers 9 &10 – ‘monochrome pottery’ sites. The three main flint outcrops are indicated by white signs in relation to modern cities. Arrows indicate presumed directions of: spread of Neolithisation – black; distribution of Dobrudzha flint – white. Numbered sites: 1 – Kovačevo; 2 – Slatina; 3 – Rakitovo; 4 – Kapitan Dimitrievo; 5 – Yabalkovo; 6 – Azmak; 7 – Karanovo; 8 – Dzhuljunitsa; 9 – Koprivets; 10 – Ohoden
From the Ovče Pole region the crucial culture group of Anzabegovo is very promising, but still enigmatic from a lithic point of view. However the researcher, Elster mentioned that among the implements there was “honey-brown flint appearing to be similar to well known eastern European flint with no known local source” (Elster, 1977, 161). The Iron Gates region will be also mentioned on the basis of Borić’s assessment on the lithic industries underlying “…a general trend toward the laminarization of blades and the use of steep retouch, as well as a tendency to use good quality raw material of attractive appearance, such as yellow-spotted flint from pre-Balkan platform that most likely originated in the region of Shumen in North-East Bulgaria” (Borić, 2005, 19). According to Kozłowski, the tardif phase of Golocut (Voyvodina) offers some dozen implements of yellow flint from the Pre-Balkan platform; the drawings of some implements from the site confirm the typological similarity with the formal tools discussed in this paper (Kozłowski, 1982, 150, Figs. 1112). The same author concludes that in the area of the KörösCriş culture there are retouched blades and unretouched sickle segments made of yellow imported flint – as a result of direct diffusion from the Balkans (Kozłowski, 1982, 154). In the Southeast there is undeniable evidence of penetration of formal tools of Karanovo I aspect in Hoca Çeşme phase II (Gatsov, 2000; 2005). Comparative evidence from the Romanian Early Neolithic flint assemblages is very limited and the distribution of “yellowspotted” raw material and items in this direction is still to be adequately documented, although Bonsall has reported the presence of Balkan flint artefacts in Criş culture contexts at Schela Cladovei on the left bank of the Danube, a few km downstream from the Iron Gates gorge (Bonsall, 2003; 2008). As a concluding remark it should be stressed that no special study elucidating the scale and intensity of the circulation and spread of yellow-spotted flint artefacts has been undertaken. The reasons are many, the most important being the scarcity of publications with relevant and detailed information about Early Neolithic flint assemblages among which these formal toolkits are detectable. This applies particularly to some emblematic sites adjacent to Bulgarian lands and cultural areas.
In his publication Gatsov (1993) presumed North-west Bulgaria to be the region of provenance of the raw material used for Early Neolithic assemblages from Western Bulgaria (vide supra). At the same time, Skakun noticed that “certain specimens are probably made of Dobrudzha flint”. On the basis of her deep knowledge of North-East Bulgarian flint assemblages both from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic, she conceived this fact rather as accidental emphasizing that the exploitation of Dobrudzha flint started no earlier than the Chalcolithic (Skakun, 1993, 54). She had already reached the same conclusion about a dozen implements from the ‘big house’ of Slatina (Skakun, 1992, 102). There are two general types of flint recognised among the assemblages from the Tells Karanovo and Azmak. The investigation was done by V. Kurčatov who suggested that the abundance of artefacts was due to the proximity of local outcrops and identified them (more theoretically than actually) in the region of the Sveti Ilia Hills in Eastern Thrace, not very far from the tells (Gatsov, Kurčatov, 1997, 215). This assumption has been quoted repeatedly, but never substantiated by further serious research. In fact, it could be considered as disproved. Preliminary research on a series from Yabalkovo has led Zlateva-Usunova to reveal that “…the predominant raw material with identified origin comes from deposits in the Upper Thrace, the Sredna Gora, North (understand Western) Bulgaria and the Eastern Rhodopes” (Leshtakov et al., 2007, 201). In fact, the first to presume, somewhat theoretically, a northeastern provenance for the raw material used for the Neolithic big blades was Tsonev. He did this in the context of his theory about the role of long blades in “communal perception of long distance exchange through common metaphors” (Tsonev, 2004, 262). The research initiated by the present author (M. Gurova), in collaboration with the mineralogist Ch. Nachev, comprises analysis of archaeological artefacts from the sites of Karanovo, Kovačevo, Rakitovo, Yabalkovo and Dzhuljunitsa and different flint outcrops from the country in order to identify the provenance of the formal Early Neolithic toolkits raw material. Microscopic and comparative analyses of thin sections from the mentioned materials are in progress (Figs. 3, 4).
Raw material for the toolkits: where from?
How should we summarize our knowledge of the raw material parameters of Early Neolithic assemblages and, in particular, their formal toolkits? It has already been mentioned that foreign specialists have drawn attention to the high quality and yellow-honey-waxy colour of a particular raw material, originating from North-Еast Bulgaria (Pre-Balkan platform) and its spread across the region. One study fixed the provenance in the vicinity of Shumen (Voytek, 1987). At local scale the research has gone more slowly. There have been some sporadic studies of cryptocrystalline siliceous rocks ‘flint” over the past three decades. The first archaeologist to show the abundance and variety of the flint sources from North-Еast Bulgaria, who also tried to establish a database and a link of the identified flint outcrops to prehistoric artefacts and their circulation, was Kanchev (1978; Kanchev et al., 1981). 31
Fig. 3. Cryptocrystalline chalcedony and micro fauna filled with microcrystalline chalcedony – blade fragment, archaeological site Rakitovo, sample N582; possible source – Upper Cretaceous (Moesian flint); transmitted light, crossed polars
Fig. 4. Cryptocrystalline chalcedony, microfauna filled with microcrystalline chalcedony and clastic particles – blade fragment, Neolithic archaeological site Yabalkovo, sample N18; possible source – Upper Cretaceous (Moesian flint); transmitted light, crossed polars
Part of the present work is based on sedimentological examinations of flint and flint-like materials from the territory of Bulgaria. They include terrain observation (more than 100 localities), macroscopic observations (descriptions of specimens – 480 numbers) and microscopic descriptions (700 thin-sections from 65 outcrops). The microscopic observations of artefacts with Neolithic and Chalcolithic age have preliminary character and are based on macro-and microscopic observations of 180 thin sections from 16 archeological sites. According to some authors, the siliceous concretions (flint) consist from autogenic minerals of SiO2 (silica). They have concretion structure and are hosted predominantly in limestones or chalk. The natural flint outcrops are widely spread in Bulgaria. The siliceous concretions are represented in almost geographic and morphotectonic zones. Significant accumulations are located in the Moesian Platform and adjustment parts of the Balkan Alpine Orogen (Fig. 5) (Nachev, Nachev, 1986). In the Phanerozoic rocks in Bulgaria the siliceous concretions are found in 16 stratigraphic levels and different paleogeodynamic environments are recognized (Nachev, Nachev, 1989). The main stratigraphic levels, which are of theoretical and practical interest for archeology, are the Upper Jurassic (Oxfordian), the Low Cretaceous (Aptian) and the Upper Cretaceous (Coniacian, Campanian and Maastrichtian).Some meaning in archaeology may have the hydrothermal chalcedony veins in the Upper Cretaceous Sredna Gora zone (Sredna Gora atypical flint) and in the Oligocene Rhodopes volcanic zone (Rhodopes atypical flint). The term “Pre-Balkan Platform” is not a correct term for Moesian Platform. The “Balkan flint” probably means every flint in the Moesian Platform and adjustment parts of the Balkan Alpine Orogen including both Low Cretaceous (Aptian) flint and Upper Cretaceous (Campanian and Maastrichtian) flint. The geographic and stratigraphic distribution of the main levels of siliceous concretions (flint) with archaelogocal significance in Bulgaria is shown on Fig. 5.
Further thin section analyses should reduce the potential candidates for original outcrops of the toolkits under discussion. Although archaeological evidence for Neolithic workshops in the region of North-East Bulgaria is absent, we have to presume that they existed in the Early Neolithic for ensuring suitable nodules, cores (about 18-20 cm long) and debitage (blades): all these products were predestined for long distance exchange of good and perhaps embodied know-how.
Sedimentological aspects of prehistoric flints
The siliceous concretions (flint) are relatively well studied in Bulgaria. The published sedimentological works are about Upper Jurassic siliceous concretions in West Bulgaria (Atanasov, 1954; Nachev, 2005), Low Cretaceous flint in Northeast Bulgaria (Goranov, 1965; Nachev, Kanchev, 1984; Nachev, 2008, in press) and Upper Cretaceous siliceous concretions (Soultanov, 1982; Nachev, 2008 in press).
Fig. 5. Geological map of the main types of flint-born rocks in Bulgaria: 1 – Upper Jurassic limestones (Oxfordian age) with siliceous concretions (J3 ox) Hemus flint; 2 – Low Cretaceous (Aptian age) limestones with siliceous concretions (К1a) – Luda Gora flint (Dobrudzha flint); 3 – Upper Cretaceous chalk and chalk-like limestones (Campanian and Maastrictian ages) with siliceous concretions (К2 cp-m) – Moesia flint; 4 – Upper Cretaceous volcanogenous rocks (Coniacian, Santonian and Campanian ages) in Sredna Gora Zone (K2Cn-Cp) – Sredna Gora atypical flint; 5 – Chalcedony veins in Oligocene volcanogenous rocks in Rhodope Zone (Pg3) – Rhodope atypical flint ; 6 – boundary between tectonic zones
Hemus flint (J3ox). The silica concretions are hosted in grey micrite limestones (Nachev, 2005). The flint-rich level in limestones belongs to the Oxfordian age. The shape of the concretions is approximately ellipsoidal, with pale grey colour. The size of the concretions varies from 1 to 15 cm, mainly 8-10 cm. A few low meters of the flint bearing section are of a brown-reddish color. The structure is massive, practically without inclusions. The crust is pale yellowish, from 0.2 to 1 cm in thickness. The grey flint formed characteristic yellow patina in water (alluvial and karst) conditions. The fracture is smooth (in grey varieties) – conchoidal in separate parts of the specimens. The brown-reddish varieties show rough fracture. This flint has many tectonic cracks in three directions like. The cracks are with calcite filling. Part of the specimens is strongly weathered. Very rarely are visible relics from limestones. The mineral composition is chalcedony, quartzine, quartz, and calcite. Biodetritus is from Foraminifera and Spongia (Porifera). All the biocomponents are silicified. The Upper Jurassic limestones are widespread and characteristic topography element in the district – there is abundance of small flint deposits in the region. Clearly observed are the following types of flint deposits: 1 – primary; 2 – secondary (placer). The secondary deposits are divided to the following genetic types: eluvial deposits; colluvial (slope embankments) deposits; proluvial deposits; alluvial (river) deposits; karsts deposits. The Upper Jurassic flint-rich limestones formed two stripes of outcrops in North-West Bulgaria. The first stripe is connected to the north branch of the Belogradchik anticline near Granitovo, Oreshets and Yanovets. The second stripe is related to the South branch of the Belogradchik anticline near Salash, Varbovo, Targoviste, Prevala and Dolni Lom. The Oxfordian flint is used as a local source of flint during the Early Paleolithic (1.3 Ma). Ludogorie or Luda Gora (Dobrogea) flint (К1a). The silica concretions are hosted in Low Cretaceous (Aptian) micrite limestones with pale grey colour. The colour of the concretions is predominantly pale brown or beige, very rarely grey. Very often it shows concentric-zonal structure (pale brown, reddish and grey stripes). The size varies from 1 to 50 cm, mainly 5-15 cm, very rarely (30-50 cm). The shape is regular – approximately ellipsoidal, rarely may be rod-like. Distinctive feature is the white silica-carbonate crust, 6-12 mm thick, in separate specimens with onion weathering. The intercalations are very rare, small (1-5 mm), round, with a pale cream colour. The fracture is smooth (in brown and beige varieties), conchoidal or cone in separate part of the specimens. The grey varieties show a rough fracture. The mineral composition is micro- and cryptograin chalcedony, moganite and quartz. Biocomponents are only sponge spiculae which are fully silicified. The Aptian flint-rich limestones give material for different types of flint secondary (placer) deposits. The main of them are eluvium-proluvium deposits, where angular pieces of flint are hosted in soft sandy-carbonated masses. Such examples are Kriva Reka, Tetovo, Kamenovo, Ravno, Chukata (near Razgrad) etc. Another placer deposits in this region are from paleoalluvial type like Drianovets locality etc. The Aptian flint has a large geographic distribution in North East Bulgaria, to the North of Novi Pazar and between meridians of Rouse and Dobrich. The main outcrops are near Vetovo, Koubrat, Razgrad, Isperih and Novi Pazar. Clearly are distinguished two microscopic types of Ludogorie flint: the first one with micro- to 33
cryptoground mass and single sponge spiculae and the second – microcrystalline aggregates with recrystallization of chalcedony. The first one, named Ludogorie flint – Type Ravno (Figs. 6, 7) is observed in the Northeast part of area – along the Topchii River near Topchii, Kamenovo, Ravno, Koubrat, Belovets, Tetovo, and Chereshovo. The second, named Ludogorie flint – Type Kriva Reka (Figs. 8, 9) is observed in the Southwest part
Fig. 6. Cryptocrystalline chalcedony and sponge spiculae filled with microcrystalline chalcedony – siliceous concretion; deposit Ravno (near Kamenovo), sample N431, Low Cretaceous (Ludogorie flint – type Ravno); transmitted light, crossed polars
Fig. 7. Cryptocrystalline chalcedony and sponge spiculae filled with microcrystalline chalcedony – nucleus from siliceous concretion; archaeological site Kamenovo, sample N5K1, Low Cretaceous (Ludogorie flint – type Ravno); transmitted light, crossed polars
Fig. 8. Cryptocrystalline chalcedony and microcrystalline chalcedony – siliceous concretion; deposit Kriva Reka, sample N8-2, Low Cretaceous (Ludogorie flint – type Kriva Reka); transmitted light, crossed polars
Fig. 9. Cryptocrystalline chalcedony and microcrystalline chalcedony – siliceous concretion; deposit Goliam Porovets – Chakmaka (near Isperih), sample N4, Low Cretaceous (Ludogorie flint – type Kriva Reka); transmitted light, crossed polars
Fig. 10. Cryptocrystalline chalcedony and microfauna filled with microcrystalline chalcedony – siliceous concretion; deposit Somovit (near Nikopol), sample N11a, Upper Cretaceous (Moesian flint); transmitted light, crossed polars
of the area – between the villages of Goliam Porovets, Drianovets, Krivnia, Chukata (Razgrad), Lisi Vrah, Kriva Reka and Rouzhitsa. The Ludogorie flint – Type Ravno is very often found as artefacts, especially in North-East Bulgaria (Rouse, Kamenovo, Ravno) and the Thracian valley (Ezero, Diadovo). The second type (Ludogorie flint – Type Kriva Reka) has a relatively low distribution as artefacts. In the Popovski Hills Region (Goranov, 1965) and at the Yantra River are described bedded siliceous rocks in vertical alternation with Aptian limestones. These bedded siliceous rocks altered laterally in Ludogorie flint to West direction and this flint is a possible raw material for artefacts production durring the Neolithic. Localities of such type are Golyamo Gradiste, Byala, Krepcha, Tsenovo, Beltsov and other sites. Moesian flint (К2cp-m). The silica concretions are hosted in the Upper Cretaceous (Campanian) chalk, chalk-like limestones and fine grained biomorphic limestones (Maastrichtian). In such a way they formed a few stratigraphic levels, but the very rich layer of flint is the Upper Campanian, where the concretions are condensed in a layer with approximately 1 meter thickness. The colour of the concretions is brown, pale brown and grey, massive and spotted structure (brown with pale grey spots). Concentric-zonal structure is very rare. The size varies from 5 to 100 cm, mainly 15-35 cm, rarely up to 100 cm. The shape is extremely irregular, with many branches (ameba-like). Macroscopic distinctive features are very often big relics from chalky limestones, sometime dissolved, with dimensions up to 10 cm. The crust is thin (1-2 mm), white, chalk contain, with silica-carbonate composition. The fracture is rough to smooth. The natural polish and yellow patina are typical for paleo and recent alluvial depositions. The mineral composition is a micro and crypto chalcedony (up to 75%), moganite (up to 25%), opal, quartz (2-3%) and framboidal pyrite. The microscopic observation shows micro to crypto groundmass and abundance of lightly fragmentated and chaotic distributed microfauna (Fig. 10). These microscopic features are diagnostic for Moesian flint. The Upper Cretaceous flint-rich rocks formed (Fig. 1) three large areas of outcrops in North Bulgaria (the Moesian Platform and adjustment parts of the Balkan Alpine Orogen), from West to Wast as follow: the first one between Montana and Lovech, the second – between Pleven and Nikopol and the third – between Shumen and Devnya. 34
In this big territory Moesian flint has large distribution and has formed big deposits. Throughout this big area the Moesian flint has similar features. Only in the Pleven-Nikopol region the Moesian flint is hosted in non deformed rocks. That is why the flint from these outcrops has a better quality. This fact and the convenient transport connection along the Danube River, determined the big outcrops on the Danube cost near Nikopol and Somovit, as the most probable source of flint raw materials for vast territories in Serbia and Romania. Sredna Gora atypical flint (K2Cn-Cp) is represented as hydrothermal veins from chalcedony varieties in the Upper Cretaceous volcanogenous rocks (of Coniacian, Santonian and Campanian ages) in the Sredna Gora paleovolcanic zone. This atypical flint (Fig. 1) forms a few deposits, but with a large geographic distribution in the Thracian Plain. Because of the strong tectonic treatment, its irregular shape and domain of recrystallization, this material (only as local source) has a very small participation in artefacts production. The Rhodopes atypical flint (Pg3) is represented as hydrothermal veins of chalcedony varieties (chalcedony, agate and jasper) in the Oligocene volcanogenic rocks in the Rhodopes Zone. The Rhodopes atypical flint has a large geographic distribution in the Eastern and Central Rhodopes and has formed a large deposition. A few of these deposits (near Asenovgrad, Chirpan and Haskovo) are distributed in the Thracian Plain. This fact determines their participation in flint toolkits in Thrace. The atypical flint from the Rhodopes zone, because of its irregular shape, many inclusions, domains of recrystallization, tectonic treatment and other peculiarities has significance only as a local source of flint durring the Neolithic and Chalcolithic. The microscopic examinations of artefacts, despite their preliminary character give the following clear suggestions: the flint toolkits in the Central West Bulgaria are with significant participation (up to 90%) of Moesian flint (Chavdar and Kazanluk sites); there are evidences for participation of Moesian flint in the Rakitovo site in the Rhodope Region; the Kovachevo site (Struma valley) in conditions of total lack of local flint sources is characterized with participation of Ludogorie flint – 2% (for formal toolkits) and up to 50% of the Rhodopes atypical flint with probable source from the BatakDospat region.
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