Sunday, May 31, 2020

Norway couple find Viking grave under floor of their house

The couple were pulling up the floor to install insulation. Photo: Nordland County Council

A couple in northern Norway were pulling up the floor of their house to install insulation when they found a glass bead, and then a Viking axe. Now archeologists suspect they live above an ancient Viking grave
"It wasn't until later that we realised what it could be," Mariann Kristiansen from Seivåg near Bodø told Norway's state broadcaster NRK of the find. "We first thought it was the wheel of a toy car." 

Archaeologist Martinus Hauglid from Nordland county government visited the couple last Monday and judged taht find was most likely a grave from the Iron Age or Viking Age.

"It was found under stones that probably represent a cairn. We found an axe dated from between 950AD and 1050AD and a bead of dark blue glass, also of the late Viking period," he told The Local. 

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Coal Mine in Serbia Gives up New Roman Treasure

An archaeologist looks at parts of a wooden Roman ship dated to the 3rd century AD, at the ancient city of Viminacium, near Kostolac, Serbia, May 28, 2020. REUTERS/Marko DjuricaREUTERS

BELGRADE (REUTERS) - AS the sun sank over a vast opencast coal mine in eastern Serbia earlier this month, a small crane eased the front half of a Roman ship from the steep sides of the pit.

An excavator cutting through the coal rich soil had pulled out some muddy timber weeks before, but coronavirus restrictions had meant the retrieval had to wait.

The ship was part of Viminacium, a sprawling Roman city of 45,000 people with a hippodrome, fortifications, a forum, palace, temples, amphitheatre, aqueducts, baths and workshops.

Lead archaeologist Miomir Korac said the vessel dated from the 3rd century AD when Viminacium was the capital of the Roman province of Moesia Superior and near a tributary of the Danube river.

"A Roman (river) fleet was based here to defend this region from barbarian invasions," he told Reuters. "Such findings of Roman ships are really rare, especially in such a good condition where one could see how the boat was built."

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Well-preserved Roman mosaic unearthed in Italian vineyard


SOAVE, Italy (AP) — Archaeologists have briefly revealed a well-preserved mosaic floor of an ancient Roman villa first discovered almost a century ago near the northern Italian city of Verona.

The mosaic in bright shades of red, pink, orange, purple and yellow appeared to be ’’in a good state of conservation,” from what archaeologists observed after gingerly digging a trench between vineyards in the hills of Valpolicella, Gianni de Zuccato, the official in charge of archaeology in Verona province, said Friday.

Mosaics revealing the site of an ancient villa were first discovered in 1922. Archaeologists have been doing partial digs to determine the scale of the original villa and in preparation to transform the area into a museum. The recent discovery of two nearby mosaic floors confirmed the villa extended north and south of the original site.

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Antiques Roadshow presenter stunned to discover ancient Roman site in garden

Antiques Roadshow expert Marc was shocked to make the discovery (Image: SWNS)

Antiques Roadshow expert, Marc Allum is on hand to guide owners through the history of their treasured items and has left many guests stunned with unexpected valuations. But the antiques expert was left speechless himself when he discovered his house had been built on an ancient Roman site after initially having his suspicions that the land may have a connection to King Alfred.

BBC viewers will know Marc as the miscellaneous expert who specialises in all the weird and wonderful items that don’t quite fit into any particular category.

But in an upcoming exclusive interview on The Arts Society Connected, Marc will be giving fans a glimpse into his own collection of antiques.

In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Marc revealed the three items he will be discussing in the lecture while revealing the unlikely discoveries he made in his garden.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Early Iron Age burials discovered in France

General view of the site with a circular enclosure from the Early Iron Age in the foreground
[Credit: Philippe Alix, Inrap]

Several excavations have been requested by the DRAC Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes authorities since 2016 as part of the development of the Plaine de l'Ain Industrial Park (PIPA) in the commune of Saint-Vulbas. One of them, carried out by a team from Inrap, has, among other things, brought to light several funerary structures from the Early Iron Age.

The excavation of almost one hectare took place to the north of a vast protohistoric funerary area (Bronze Age and Iron Age), which was identified during the course of a series of preliminary surveys, extending over several dozens of hectares on the right bank of the Rhone.

One burial and three circular enclosures, probably tumuli, were found from the very beginning of the Iron Age (first half of the 8th century BC), one of which still has a central cremation repository. Towards the end of the 5th century BC a new grave site was established which consists of cremation pit associated with a four-post aedicula in the centre of a small quadrangular enclosure. 

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Roman mosaic floor found under Italian vineyard

Local officials said scholars first found evidence of a villa at the site more than a century ago
COMUNE DI NEGRAR DI VALPOLICELLA

A Roman mosaic floor has been discovered under a vineyard in northern Italy after decades of searching.

Surveyors in the commune of Negrar di Valpolicella north of Verona published images of the well-preserved tiles buried under metres of earth.

According to officials, scholars first found evidence of a Roman villa there more than a century ago.

Technicians are still gently excavating the site to see the full extent of the ancient building.

Images posted online show the pristine mosaic as well as foundations of the villa.

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Melting ice reveals an ancient, once-thriving trade route

Upper left: an object interpreted as a tong (a clamp for holding fodder on a sled or wagon), dated to the Late Roman Iron Age; right: a similar, undated object, also from the pass area; lower left: a historical example from Uppigard Garmo, pre-dating c. 1950. Credit: Glacier Archaeology Program & R. Marstein/Lars Pilø et al.

High in the mountains of Norway, melting ice has led to the discovery of an ancient remote mountain pass, complete with trail markers and artifacts from the Roman Iron Age and the time of the Vikings. The remains reveal this route served a dual function historically: It was once a significant passageway for moving livestock between grazing sites as well as for inter-regional travel and trade. This particular receding ice patch is known as Lendbreen, and because of its tame geologic features, hundreds of artifacts have been pristinely preserved. Most are from the Viking Age, providing an odd inland perspective to the age-old tales of their audacious maritime journeying.

Glaciers and ice patches throughout the world's high mountain regions are receding, leaving behind precious artifacts, like Ötzi the ice man and his tool kit, that have been buried under ice for centuries. The rate of melt has been accelerating over the past few decades as a result of the warming climate. In the 1980s, glaciers lost less than a foot of ice per year, on average. That number increased every decade so that by 2018, glaciers around the world were losing mass at a pace of three feet per year. This rise in melt drastically propelled the field of glacier and ice patch archaeology—especially in Scandinavia, the Alps and North America—as archaeologists raced to collect artifacts uncovered by this process.

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Butchery Marks Suggest Paleolithic Hunters Ate Large Carnivores

Courtesy Piotr Wojtal)

KRAKÓW, POLAND—Science in Poland reports that Piotr Wojtal of the Polish Academy of Sciences identified butchered wolf bones among a collection of 30,000-year-old flint and bone artifacts and tools unearthed in the Czech Republic. “Until now, scientists were convinced that wolves and other predators were the target of hunting primarily because of their skins, and certainly not as a source of meat,” Wojtal said. Some of the marks on the wolf bones were the result of removing the skin, he explained, but other marks are only associated with dividing a carcass into portions.

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Monday, May 25, 2020

Neolithic Skeleton “Lovingly Buried” in Fetal Position


A “lovingly” buried Neolithic skeleton is offering archaeologists new insights on burial practices 4,500-years ago.

The gravesite is located in the idyllic German countryside at Uckermark, a rural county around 60 miles (96.56 km) northeast of Berlin. It contained the remains of a woman who had been carefully buried in a north-facing fetal position with her back to the Sun. Because bodies found in other graves across Neolithic Europe have been found in this position, the archaeologists suspect this was possibly a shared burial practice that they say reached as far away as Scotland.

A Woman “Lovingly Laid” in The Fetal Position
A Newsweek article explains how Dr. Philipp Roskoschinski and a team of archaeologists from the private archaeology company Archaeros discovered the roughly 4,500-year-old remains of the woman. He believes the Neolithic skeleton was buried in a simple but “lovingly made gravesite.” And Roskoschinski said in an interview with Tagespeigel he has “never found anything like this.”

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Britain’s historic ghost villages

The former Seagram’s Farm in Imber, the Wiltshire village requisitioned for second world war training. Photograph: Jane Tregelles/Alamy

Most of Britain’s ghost towns were abandoned after a previous pandemic – the Black Death – wiped out entire populations from hundreds of villages. The greatest losses were in Norfolk and Suffolk, often the landing points for plague-infested ships.

Coastal erosion also contributed to settlements in these counties disappearing into the sea. The most famous, Dunwich, was a thriving port, equivalent in size to 14th-century London, before the sea swallowed it and its eight churches, earning Dunwich the name England’s Atlantis. While the majority of British “ghost villages” have all but disappeared, a few still offer rewards – and warnings – for the curious.

At the outbreak of the second world war, the Ministry of Defence commandeered several villages for target practice and manoeuvres. Imber, in Wiltshire, is still used for this purpose. On Open Days, visitors can wander deserted streets lined with skeletal houses, a Norman church and a bullet-riddled pub (Imber hopes to be open for August bank holiday this year).

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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Norfolk discovery of 1,100-year-old brooch 'will remain a mystery'

Experts at the British Museum say the brooch is of "national significance"
Image copyright NORFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

The origins of a 1,100-year-old brooch found in a lorry-load of soil may be "a mystery" that is never solved, say archaeologists.

The late 9th Century silver disc was discovered in a field in Great Dunham, Norfolk, which had recently been landscaped.

It is not known where the soil came from, but experts say the find is similar to the nearby Pentney Hoard.

The British Museum said the discovery was of "national importance".

An inquest - the process by which the find may be officially declared treasure - has been opened in Norwich and will conclude on 9 June.

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A 5,000-year-old mystery: recording rock art within the Dolmen de Soto

The Dolmen de Soto from above, showing both the low earth mound covering the megalithic corridor, and the reconstructed entrance way beside the portal, which provides access to the interior. (Image: Dron Pelayo)

Investigating an isolated Neolithic tomb in Andalucía has revealed a new dimension to its rock art. What can this tell us about life as well as death in a remarkable megalithic monument? George Nash, Sara Garcês, José Julio García Arranz, and Hipólito Collado share the secrets of the Dolmen de Soto.

The origins of Neolithic tomb building in Europe are difficult to pinpoint. We know that the Neolithic Revolution occurred in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ of the Middle East around 10,000 BC, but the development and spread of tomb architecture across Europe is less clear. We can say that during the 5th and 4th millennium BC, passage graves became dominant, probably after emerging from a tomb style popular in eastern Europe. 

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Migration patterns reveal an Eden for ancient humans and animals

An artist rendering of the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain during the Pleistocene.

Home to some of the richest evidence for the behavior and culture of the earliest clearly modern humans, the submerged shelf called the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP) once formed its own ecosystem. Co-author Curtis Marean, Ph.D., Arizona State University, has worked with teams of scientists for decades to reconstruct the locale back into the Pleistocene, the time period that spanned from 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.

In this study, the researchers looked specifically at antelope migratory patterns at Pinnacle Point. This series of cave sites that sit on the modern South African coast offers archaeological materials from humans who were living and hunting there back to 170,000 years ago.

"During glacial cycles, the coastal shelf was exposed," said Hodgkins. "There would have been a huge amount of land in front of the cave sites. We thought it was likely that humans and carnivores were hunting animals as they migrated east and west over the exposed shelve."

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Archaeologists uncover Iron Age tomb of woman adorned with jewellry

Archaeologists are planning to excavate the tomb along with the woman's remains. (Inrap)

The tomb of a woman dating back about 2700 years has been uncovered by archaeologists in France.
The woman, who is believed to have lived at the start of the Iron Age in the eighth century BC, was found adorned with jewelry which had been preserved over millennia.

Several hectares of the ancient grave site on the bank of the Rhone river in eastern France is being excavated by experts from the archaeological research organisation Inrap.

"Inside the coffin, the deceased, a middle-aged woman, was laid on her back, arms beside her body, dressed and adorned with her jewelry," the archaeologists wrote in a statement about the discovery.

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Endangered cultural heritage on the seafloor: Underwater archaeology in the North and Baltic Seas

Credit: Sarah Katharina Heuzeroth

In many regions of the world, the seafloor contains a fascinating archive of human history. This also applies to the North Sea and Baltic Sea. The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has released the discussion paper Traces under Water – Exploring and Protecting the Cultural Heritage in the North Sea and Baltic Sea to raise awareness of the value of the cultural heritage found in the depths of the North Sea and Baltic Sea. The paper’s authors describe the importance of this heritage and recommend measures for effectively protecting it.

The authors of the publication illustrate the profound importance of the cultural heritage in the North Sea and Baltic Sea for archaeological research in Germany and the other states bordering the two seas. According to the authors, in Germany, the underwater cultural heritage has been explored much less than that on land.

At the same time, there is a lot of pressure to economically exploit the seas and the seafloors – a trend that is only expected to increase. Thus, two primary objectives are laid out in the discussion paper. 

Firstly, the investigations of the cultural heritage in the North Sea and Baltic Sea should be comprehensive and be carried out to the same high scientific standard as those on land. Secondly, Germany should establish protective measures in its exclusive economic zone which are just as effective as those which have long been in effect on land. 

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European Ice Age Hunters Ate Wolf Meat


New study reveals that hunters during the Palaeolithic (approx. 30,000 years ago) ate wolf meat.
Archaeologists excavating in the Czech Republic recently discovered thousands of pieces of flint, tools and decorative items manufactured from reindeer bone, artic fox teeth, mammoth tusks, in addition to thousands of animal bone fragments amongst the remains of an ancient Palaeolithic settlement.

The animal remains were examined by Dr Piotr Wojtal from the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Kraków who said: “Until now, scientists were convinced that wolves and other predators were the targets of hunting primarily because of their skins, and certainly not as a source of meat.”

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Homo Sapiens caused Neanderthal extinction according to computer models

Using computer models, climate scientists from the IBS Centre suggests that Homo Sapiens are responsible for the demise of the Neanderthal between 43-38 thousand years ago.
Previous extinction theories had proposed that Neanderthal extinction was caused by climatic events or interbreeding, but the new computer simulations quantified which processes played a major role in the collapse of Neanderthal populations using mathematical models that can realistically simulate the migration of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens, their interactions, competition and interbreeding in a changing climatic environment. Such models did not exist previously.

Neanderthals lived in Eurasia for at least 300,000 years. Then, around 43 to 38 thousand years ago they quickly disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving only weak genetic traces in present-day Homo sapiens populations. It is well established that their extinction coincided with a period of rapidly fluctuating climatic conditions, as well as with the arrival of Homo sapiens in Europe. However, determining which of these factors was the dominant cause, has remained one of the biggest challenges of evolutionary anthropology.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Fungus is destroying a buried Viking ship. Here's how Norway plans to save it.

Image: © Lars Gustavsen/NIKU)

Archaeologists are racing against the clock to save the remains of a buried Viking ship from a ruthless foe: fungus. 

If the project is successful, the 65-foot-long (20 meters) oak vessel — called the Gjellestad ship — will become the first Viking ship to be excavated in Norway in 115 years, said Sveinung Rotevatn, the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment. 

"Norway has a very special responsibility safeguarding our Viking Age heritage," Rotevatn told Live Science in an email. "Now, we are choosing to excavate in order to protect what remains of the find, and secure important knowledge about the Viking Age for future generations."

The ship is buried at a well-known Viking archaeological site at Gjellestad, near Halden, a town in southeastern Norway. But scientists discovered the vessel only recently, in the fall of 2018, by using radar scans that can detect structures underground. The scans revealed not only the ship, but also the Viking cemetery where it was ritually buried.

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Ancient Tap O' Noth hillfort in Aberdeenshire one of 'largest ever'

Tap O' Noth overlooks Rhynie
UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN

A hillfort in Aberdeenshire is one of the largest ancient settlements ever discovered in Scotland, researchers have said.

University of Aberdeen archaeologists say 4,000 people may have lived in more than 800 huts perched high on the Tap O' Noth near Rhynie.

Many had thought it dated from the Bronze or Iron Age.

The team said carbon dating suggested it was likely to be Pictish, dating back as far as the third century AD.

They believe at its height it may have rivalled the largest known post-Roman settlements in Europe.

Archaeologists from the university have conducted extensive fieldwork in the surrounding area since 2011.

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Hillfort revealed to be the largest Pictish site ever discovered in Scotland

Drone view of the Tap O’ Noth Hillfort [Credit: University of Aberdeen]

A spectacular hillfort overlooking a tiny Aberdeenshire village has been revealed as one of the largest ancient settlements ever discovered in Scotland.

University of Aberdeen archaeologists have uncovered evidence that up to 4,000 people may have lived in more than 800 huts perched high on the Tap O’ Noth close to the village of Rhynie.

Radiocarbon dating suggests the fort – a settlement within a rampart which encloses an area of around 17 acres -  was constructed in the fifth to sixth centuries AD and that settlement on the hill may date back as far as the third century AD, meaning it is likely to be Pictish in origin.

Their discovery means that the area, which today is a quiet village home to just a few hundred people, once had a hilltop settlement that at its height may have rivalled the largest known post-Roman settlements in Europe.

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10 Great Castles in England & Wales

Conwy Castle

The Norman Conquest of 1066 CE brought sophisticated motte and bailey castle architecture to England but it was really in the 12th and 13th centuries CE that stone castle-building reached its zenith. Edward I of England (r. 1272-1307 CE) was a huge fan of using castles as a way to keep control of conquered territories in northern Wales and they became an impressive and lasting symbol of royal power. In this collection of resources, we examine ten of the most famous castles in England and Wales, all of which can still be visited today. From the dark events within the Tower of London to the perfection of concentric castle design that is Beaumaris on Anglesey, we look at the evolution of these great structures, their tumultuous history, their decay and their restoration in modern times. We also include a general look at the key parts of medieval castles and provide a detailed visual glossary of all their distinctive architectural features.

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Science Notes – Bridging the gap in London’s prehistory

An aerial view of MOLA archaeologists excavating at Principal Place in Shoreditch – the site of the new Amazon UK HQ. [Image: © MOLA]

Over recent decades, developments in radiocarbon dating techniques have revolutionised our ability to establish the age of archaeological material and to interpret the past (see CA 359). In this month’s Science Notes we will be exploring how, thanks to further advances in this field, ‘the most significant group of Early Neolithic pottery ever uncovered in London’ has shed intriguing light on the capital’s prehistoric past.

Neolithic finds from central London are extremely rare, previously limited to a few individual fragments of pottery and stone axes – and so the discovery of almost 6.5kg of ceramics of this period, comprising 436 fragments from at least 24 separate vessels, was always going to be an important find.

Discovered by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) during excavation on behalf of Brookfield Properties at Principal Place in Shoreditch – the location of the new Amazon UK HQ – the pot sherds have now been analysed using a brand-new radiocarbon dating technique on traces of milk fats extracted from their surfaces.

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12 podcasts about medieval history to listen to right now


1 Back to the Black Death

I enjoyed recording this conversation recently, with Professor Jane Whittle from Exeter University, about the government’s response to Black Death in the mid-14th century. You don’t get more topical than that.

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Historical city travel guide: Rome, 1st century AD

The Roman Forum, study for theatrical scene in Shakespeare's 'Coriolanus'. Hodgkin, 1800-1860. 
Pen and grey ink with watercolour.

Location

Rome in Latium, central Italy, is the capital of the Roman Empire. The great city is said to have been founded by Romulus, who was raised with his brother Remus by a she-wolf. He was a descendant of the prince Aeneas, who escaped his home city of Troy after it was sacked by the Greeks. However, the city’s origins are likely to have been slightly less romantic, developing in the 8th century BC through the merging of several villages.

Spanning seven hills on the left bank of the river Tiber, Rome is located about 22 km (14 miles) inland from the Mediterranean Sea as the crow flies. The area is suitable for farming and characterised by warm weather, but the plains between the hills were originally swampy and subject to flooding. That is why, initially, different villages developed on the hilltops rather than in the Tiber valley.

The city now sits at the centre of an empire which stretches from Spain to Syria and is rapidly growing.

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Practical joke or toy? Leather ‘mouse’ shows Romans' playful side

A mouse made out of leather, about 12cm long, has been discovered at the Roman fort of Vindolanda, south of Hadrian’s Wall, in Northumberland. Photograph: The Vindolanda Trust

The Roman author Pliny the Younger advised “kissing the hairy muzzle of a mouse” as a cure for the common cold. His fellow countrymen linked mice to the god Apollo, who could bring deadly plague upon them with his arrows.

So they might not have seen the funny side of a lifelike mouse made out of a strip of leather which has been newly discovered at the Roman fort of Vindolanda, south of Hadrian’s Wall, near Hexham, Northumberland.

About the size of a real rodent and lying unnoticed until now among thousands of leather offcuts held by the Vindolanda Museum since 1993, it looks as if it had been squashed flat after being run over – perhaps by a Roman cart.

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Drowned Paleo-Agulhas Plain was an Eden for Early humans


The Paleo-Agulhas Plain in South Africa had diverse, verdant ecosystems and abundant game for early Humans.
In contrast to ice age environments elsewhere on Earth, it was a lush environment with a mild climate that disappeared under rising sea levels around 11,500 years ago.

An interdisciplinary, international team of scientists has now brought this pleasant cradle of humankind back to life in a special collection of articles that reconstruct the paleoecology of the Paleo-Agulhas Plain, a now-drowned landscape on the southern tip of Africa that was high and dry during glacial phases of the last 2 million years.

“These Pleistocene glacial periods would have presented a very different resource landscape for early modern human hunter-gatherers than the landscape found in modern Cape coastal lowlands, and may have been instrumental in shaping the evolution of early modern humans,” said Janet Franklin, a distinguished professor of biogeography in the department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside, an associate member of the African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa, and co-author of several of the papers.

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