Tag Archive: association



Prospectus on my Presentation, “The Rôle of Supersyllbograms in Mycenaean Linear B”, exactly one month from today.

Supersyllabograms by Richard Vallance Janke Pultusk Academy Humanities Warsaw
aka Surcharged Adjuncts, to be held at the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, just outside of Warsaw, Poland, June 30-July 2,

Pultusk Academy and logo

Prospectus link

sponsored by the Department of Classics of the University of Warsaw and by the Association of Historical Studies, Koryvantes (Athens), with particular acknowledgement of the superb research Marie Louise Nosch in the domain of textiles in Mycenaean Linear B, whom I have cited 12 times in the bibliography of the paper. See Section A, page 4, July 1, 2015

Prospectus July 1 20154

Richard


Just uploaded to academia.edu:
The Gezer Agricultural Calendar Almanac in Paleo-Hebrew (ca. 925 BCE) and its Translation into Mycenaean Linear B, Coupled with the Profound Implications of the Powerful Impact of Supersyllabograms aka Surcharged Adjuncts on Linear B:

category Linear B 
This highly significant article, which is the ultimate lead up to my talk,"The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B", which I will be giving at the interdisciplinary Conference,"Thinking in Symbols", at the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, Pultusk, Warsaw, on July 1st. or 2nd., is highly revealing of the primary focus my presentation at that time: Click on the banner below to visit the academia.edu page, where it is presently posted and available for download in PDF format. here: Click the banner below to retrieve it:

Paleo-Hebrew Gezer Calnder translated into Mycenaean Linear B
I am quite sure that anyone genuinely interested in Mycenaean Linear B will find it fascinating reading.

I would also like to point out that, even though I have been on academia.edu for less than a month, my papers have skyrocked to the top 1% of all research documents on the that site, which has surprised and astonished me beyond my wildest expectations. The number of followers I have garnered has risen from 55 last week to 90 today.

Richard
  


Introduction to the Complete Bibliography of 138 Citations for “The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B”, Presentation by Richard Vallance Janke at the 2015 Conference in the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, Pultusk, Poland, June 30-July 2, 2015.

In the next 2 posts, I shall present my exhaustive bibliography of 138 items (79 citations in each of the two parts) for the talk I shall be giving on “The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B” at the 2015 Conference, “Thinking in Symbols” in the Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, Pultusk, Poland, June 30-July 2, 2015. It is so exhaustive that I doubt I have missed any sources of any significance to the topic at hand. Of course, the paper of the talk itself cannot be released at this time, as it is still under wraps.

Certain researchers past and present, above all Marie-Louise Nosch, have made significant contributions towards the realization of the General Theory of Supersyllabograms which I have just finalized this year, after a year of intensive research (spring 2014 – spring 2015). Previous researchers have sometimes come right up to the edge of a general theory correlating the single or multiple syllabograms they usually designate as “adjuncts” or “endograms” to the Linear B ideograms to which they are “surcharged” (i.e. attached), and which they invariably qualify. But all of these definitions are lacking in one sense or another, for the following reasons:

1. Although designated as (mere) “adjuncts” to the ideograms they invariably qualify, these associative single or multiple syllabograms (up to a maximum of 5!) are far more than that. Standing in as first-syllable abbreviations for words and even entire phrases in Mycenaean Greek, they play an absolutely critical rôle in significantly qualifying the ideograms to which they are attached, all the more so when the tablet on which they are found contains no text whatsoever, but only ideograms with these so-called “adjuncts”. But since these “adjuncts” invariably replace either Mycenaean words or (very often) entire phrases, they cannot be relegated to the status of simple adjuncts. In far too many instances, these single syllabograms encompass so much text that their inherent meaning as such turns out to be much more comprehensive and significant than that of the ideograms to which they are presumably attached. In other words, the single syllabogram(s) embodies/embody so much more than what would have otherwise been nothing but wasteful discursive text. So it appears that we should expediently and practically refer to as the ideogram as the adjunct, rather than the other way around.

On tablets with no text whatsoever and with 3 or more syllabograms performing this function, it is more than apparent that all of the single syllabograms functioning as the first syllable of a Mycenaean Greek word or an entire phrase replace so much discursive text that they literally cut down the amount of space used on the tablet in question by as much as two-thirds! Since the Linear B scribes at Knossos and Pylos in particular were real sticklers for saving as much space as they possibly could on what were (and are) extremely small extant tablets (rarely more than 15 cm. or 6 inches wide), they resorted to this stratagem so often (on at least 23% of the Linear B tablets at Knossos) that the practice is, if anything, of far greater importance to an accurate decipherment of those tablets on which they appear than was previously thought. It is for this reason that I have come to designate syllabograms playing this rôle as supersyllabograms, and certainly not as mere “adjuncts” or “endograms”, since that is patently what they are – supersyllabograms.

2. The designation of supersyllabograms as “endograms” is extremely misleading and quite inaccurate, since as many of these supersyllabograms precede as follow the ideograms to which they are attached. So “endograms” account for only half of supersyllabograms at best. Besides, what are we to call the supersyllabograms which precede the ideograms to which they are attached? Has anyone thought of that or even mentioned it in previous research? Not that I have ever seen, and I have read every single document (monographs, journal articles and articles in every past conference) I could lay my hands on. The reason for this lacuna is clear enough. Past researchers have focused solely on “adjuncts” or “endograms” related solely to the field of research in Mycenaean Linear B which is of primary and frequently exclusive interest to themselves. Even Marie-Louise Nosch, who has done an astonishing amount of truly remarkable research in this area, has restricted herself to the textiles sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy, as that is her primary field of interest. Fair enough. 

Given this scenario, it appears to me that researchers past and present have been focusing exclusively on the trees or even sometimes, as with Marie-Louise Nosch, on whole clearings in forest. But none have ever concentrated on the entire forest, at least until last year, when I myself decided to ransack every single syllabogram on some 3,000 tablets (not fragments) from Knossos, in order to hypothesize, if at all possible, a general pattern to the use of supersyllabograms with ideograms. I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. So far, I have discovered that at least 33 of the 61 syllabograms plus one of the homophones (“rai” for saffron) frequently function as supersyllabograms. Under the circumstances, and given that so many scribes so often resorted to this strategy, I soon enough concluded that it was not only a standard convention in the compilation of some 700 tablets at Knossos, but that the supersyllabograms found on these tablets were almost invariably formulaic codes. And in ancient Greek – witness Homer alone - any practice which was both conventional and formulaic was always deliberate. No-one ever resorts to such strategies in any language, unless they have abundant reason to do so.

This is all the more true for the practices the Linear B scribes routinely ascribed to, given that they would do absolutely anything, if they possibly could, to save precious space on their tiny clay tablets. This too is another crucial factor past researchers have overlooked. Linear B scribes only recorded information which was absolutely essential to the precise compilation of what were (and are) after all statistical accounts and inventories. We can take the far-reaching consequences and implications of this conclusion even further. Have you ever seen a modern-day inventory which resorts to similar tactics to conserve precious space and to make the inventory as clear, precise and accurate as possible? Of course you have. As illustrated in the following two examples, the most efficient of modern inventories resort to the same tactics, the formulaic use of code abbreviations as substitutes for wasteful discursive text with predictable frequency – which is almost always: Click to ENLARGE each one with its relevant notes

aircraft inventory 

liquor inventory

In other words, just as abbreviations serve as default codes in modern inventories, supersyllabograms function pretty much the same way on the Linear B tablets. Supersyllabograms are in fact inventory codes for the Mycenaean Linear B words or entire phrases they replace. This revelation surely substantiates the claim I am now going to make: the Linear B scribes were far ahead of their time in the compilation of inventories and statistics. No other ancient language, including classical Greek and even Latin, came remotely close to this extremely advanced practice the Linear scribes so brilliantly and consciously contrived for their astonishing ability to create practical templates they consistently applied to inventorial management. And no-one until the Italian bankers in Renaissance was to revive the practice with equal skill. As for the standard practices of the Linear B scribal inventories, they are so remarkably alike modern 20th. & 20st. Century practices that it is uncanny.         

3. But there is more. Why previous researchers have not drawn attention to the fact that many supersyllabograms, especially in the field of textiles, neither precede nor follow the ideograms they qualify, but are almost invariably inside them, is beyond me. Once again, no one in any language resorts to any stratagem without solid practical and even logical reason(s). Such is the case with the textile “intragrams”, as opposed to “exograms” in Linear B, the latter of which invariably qualify pretty much all ideograms in the field of agriculture. Again, this raises the critical, hardly hypothetical, question, why. And again, there are substantive and strictly functional reasons why the Linear B scribes made this critical distinction – because they knew they had to. Supersyllabograms functioning as “exograms” are always associative, while those operating as “intragrams” are invariably attributive. The Linear B scribes made this fundamental distinction between the two sub-classes of supersyllabograms for the simple reason that they, as a guild, knew perfectly well what the operative distinction was which each of these types of supersyllabograms played on the tablets on which they were inscribed. The talk I am giving at the Conference in Pultusk between June 30 and July 2 2015 will make this perfectly clear.

4. I have no objection to the designation “surcharged” for “exograms” as supersyllabograms, because they are not only literally surcharged onto the ideograms with which they are always associated, they also figuratively surcharge the meaning(s) of these ideograms, in a sense somewhat akin to super-charged gasoline or petrol which beefs up engine performance in cars - or by symbolic association, something along those lines. But I am forced to object to the designation of “intragrams” as surcharged in the textiles sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economies, for the obvious reason that they are both literally and figuratively not surcharged at all. Again, the scribes never resorted to “intragrams”, unless they were absolutely critical to an actual attribute, whenever required in a particular case, such as the frequent designation of colour for textiles. Ask yourselves, why would any scribe in his right mind write out the full name of the default colour white for linen, when he did not have to? He simply would not. On the other hand, the Linear B scribes did make use of an attributive supersyllabogram when they knew perfectly well that it was critical to the economic class status of the cloth so designated. For instance, purple cloth, designated by the supersyllabogram PU for Mycenaean Linear B pupureyo – a royal colour par excellence – was much more refined and far more expensive than the heavier and coarser plain white linen cloth (rino) spun for the hoi polloi (the lower classes). So they had to mention that for the sake of the “wanaka” or King (of Knossos or Mycenae) to whom this distinction was all too important, given that neither he nor his Queen no any of the princes royal would ever be caught dead wearing cheap cloth.

There is much more to this than meets the eye, as I shall clearly illustrate in the book, The Decipherment of Supersyllabograms in Linear B, which is to appear sometime in 2016, if all goes well.

I would be truly remiss were I not to acknowledge the major contributions the French researcher, Marie-Louise Nosch, whom I have cited 15 times (!) in my bibliography, has made to fundamentally accurate definitions of supersyllabograms in the textile sector of the Minoan-Mycenaean economy. Although I happened upon all of her astonishingly insightful research articles only after I had deciphered 32 of the 34 supersyllabograms (the other two being beyond me, as well as her), the truly accurate and intrinsically logical conclusions she came to on her own back up my conclusions on the meanings of practically all the intragrams for textiles almost to the letter. This amazing co-incidence, if that is merely what it is, serves as solid circumstantial collateral evidence to substantiate my Theory of Supersyllabograms. Co-incidence? I rather doubt that. It is a given that researchers in any scientific field tend to strike their bearings in the same general direction in any age, including our own. Like Odysseus, we are all heading for the same shore. The most convincing conclusions which will eventually be drawn from the research we are all sharing in now are yet in the offing. But in my eyes one thing is certain. Everything we researchers in Mycenaean Linear B, as a community, are aiming for now is bound to make a ground-breaking, perhaps even profound, contribution in the near future to make the further decipherment of Linear B considerably much more accurate than any we have seen to date.

The Bibliography to follow in two parts (1-69 & 70-138) in the next two posts.

ADDENDUM: I shall be publishing this post & the next two in academia.edu very soon, prior to my presentation at the Conference in Pultusk, Poland, June 30 - July 2, 2015.

Richard

Quotations from The Rôle of Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B, Presentation at the Conference, Thinking Symbols, Pultusk Academy of the Humanities, Pultusk, Poland, June 30-July 2, 2015: Part A

Alan Turing

Alan Turing (1923-1954), a world-famous mathematical genius and cryptologist, was head of the team at Bletchley Park in England, which deciphered what was considered at the time to be the uncrackable Enigma Code that German Intelligence used throughout the Second World War for their secret military missions and operations, eventually all to no avail. It is he who said, “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
   
... let’s get straight to the point, and look at Slide A, which dramatically illustrates the universal rôle symbols play on physical signs, otherwise known as signage, in our hectic world today.

Slide omitted, to be displayed at the Conference only

Now you will notice that the international standard signage symbols we all my must rely on every day of our lives are of two kinds, (a) nominal (N), meaning symbols which replace the names of places, otherwise known as toponyms, which usually offer us static information & (b) verbal or kinetic (V), which replace actions we must take if we are to avoid unpleasant or disastrous consequences. Here on Slide A we see examples of both static and kinetic symbols or ideograms.

... we need to define in broad terms what a syllabary is, given that all of the signs on this tablet are syllabograms, so that we can interpret the Mycenaean city & settlement codes. This clears the way for a basic understanding of how syllabograms function. Like a script or signary based on ideograms, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics or Chinese ideograms, generally an earlier development than itself, a syllabary is a signary based on syllabograms, each of which consists of a single consonant + a single vowel up to a maximum of 5 vowels in a discrete series, as we see illustrated here in Slide J.

Slide omitted, to be displayed at the Conference only

Mycenaean Linear B, like its immediate predecessor, Minoan Linear A, has a D series, da, de, di, do & du; an N series, na, ne, ni, no & nu, and so on. Some syllabogram series are incomplete, for instance, the W series, wa, we, wi & wo, with four syllabograms & the Z series, za, ze & zo, consisting of three in Linear B. Minoan Linear A and the two archaic Greek pre-alphabetic syllabaries, Mycenaean Linear B & Arcado-Cypriot Linear C also have syllabograms for each of the 5 vowels. We can see now that a syllabary is generally considered to be the intermediate stage between even more ancient scripts such as Egyptian hieroglyphics on the one hand, and the later Greek alphabet on the other, in so far as it contains both consonant + vowel sequences and the minimal set of 5 vowels, just as all alphabets do right on up from the various avatars of the ancient Greek alphabet to the Cyrillic for many Slavic languages, such as Russian and Ukrainian to the Latin alphabet, from which almost all modern Occidental alphabets are derived. Click to ENLARGE 

hieroglyphics linear b alphabet



Associative Versus Attributive Supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B: Appendix H

Appendix H neatly summarizes the rôle of supersyllabograms in Mycenaean Linear B. Click to ENLARGE:

H Appendix
I wish to stress one thing in particular. There is a marked difference in associative supersyllabograms, which account for the greatest number of SSYLS in Mycenaean Linear B, and attributive supersyllabograms, which appear primarily in the textiles and vessels (pottery, amphorae, cups etc.) sectors of the Late Minoan III & Mycenaean economies.

Associative supersyllabograms inform of us of some element, usually a land tenure factor, which relates to the ideogram itself, or which circumscribes its environment, especially in the livestock raising sub-sector of the agricultural sector. For instance, the supersyllabogram O, which you see in this Appendix, plus the ideogram for sheep + the number of sheep accounted for in the inventory of any particular tablet, informs us that the sheep are being raised on a lease(d) field, more specifically a usufruct lease field (i.e. a lease field which a farmer tenant cultivates for the use of his own family and village neighbours, with a taxation imposed by the overseer). In other words, the supersyllabogram is associated with the raising of x no. of sheep. The scribe could have simply informed us that x no. of sheep were raised, and left it at that. But he did not. By adding just one syllabogram, in this case a simple vowel = O, he has given us a great deal more information on the raising of the sheep (rams & ewes) on this particular tablet. And he has done all of this without having to resort to writing it all out as text. Since it was critical for the scribes to use as little space as possible on what were (and are) extremely small tablets, the use of supersyllabograms as a substitute for wasteful text is illustrative of just how far the scribes were willing to go to save such invaluable space. They did not do this only occasionally. They did it a great deal of the time, and they always followed the exact same formula in so doing. Not only are syllabograms such as O (on a lease field), KI (on a plot of land) & NE (in their sheep pens) in the field of sheep husbandry associative, they are all what I designate as dependent supersyllabograms, since they are meaningless unless they are immediately adjacent to the ideograms they qualify. No ideogram, no supersyllabogram. Period.

To illustrate the radical difference between a Linear B tablet on which a supersyllabogram + an ideogram is used, and another on which the text is spelled out, take a good hard look at this comparison: Click to ENLARGE

Knossos Tablet KN 933 G d 01 supersyllabograms and text

This comparison between the real tablet from Knossos using only supersyllabograms and ideograms (left) and a putative one using text in full (right) is precisely the reason why so many scribes much preferred the former formulaic approach to inscribing tablets to the latter discursive and space wasting technique. A textual version of this tablet would have been twice as long as the actual tablet. Even if no one nowadays has ever managed to decipher dependent supersyllabograms until now, that cannot conceivably mean that the Linear B scribes did not know what they were, since otherwise, they would never have used them so liberally in the first place. In other words, using SSYLS for no reason at all is tantamount to a reductio ad absurdum. There are thousands of supersyllabograms found on 700 tablets from Knossos. They are there because all of the scribes, as a team or, if you like, as a guild, all understood each and every supersyllabogram to mean one thing and one thing only in its proper context. In other words, supersyllabograms are standardized and always formulaic. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Homer, who also heavily relied on formulaic expressions, though for entirely different reasons. My point is that formulaic language is a key characteristic of ancient Greek texts, right on down from Mycenaean times through to Attic and beyond. We should never overlook this extremely important characteristic of ancient Greek, regardless of period (1450 – 400 BCE).   

Attributive dependent supersyllabograms always appear inside the ideogram which they qualify, never adjacent to it. They always describe an actual attribute (usually known as an adjectival function) of the ideogram. For instance, the syllabogram PO inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the first syllabogram, i.e. the first syllable of the Mycenaean word ponikiya = “purple”, hence the phrase = “purple cloth”.  Likewise the syllabogram TE, when it appears inside the ideogram for “cloth” is the supersyllabogram for the Mycenaean word tetukuwoa, which means “well prepared” or if you like, “well spun”. Hence, the syllabogram TE inside the ideogram for cloth must mean one thing and one thing only, “well-prepared cloth”. I have discovered, identified & classified well over a dozen examples of associative supersyllabograms. 

Neither type of dependent supersyllabogram, associative or attributive, was ever isolated and tabulated in Mycenaean Linear B until I systematically studied, deciphered and classified scores of them on some 700 tablets from Knossos.

Richard


What is a Top-Notch Translation? Is there any such thing? Pylos Tablet 641-1952 (Ventris)

Those of you who are regular readers of our blog, and who take the trouble to really delve into the fine points of our posts on the decipherment of scores of Linear B tablets which we have already translated, will have surely noticed by now that I never take any translation for granted, yes, even down to the very last word, phrase, logogram or ideogram, while strictly taking into account whether or not the tablet itself is completely intact, or – as is far more often the case - left- or right-truncated. In every instance of the latter, any decipherment, however carefully devised, is likely to be considerably more inaccurate than any translation of an intact tablet.  

Not to follow these strict procedures would be tantamount a one-sided, highly subjective and excessively biased exercise in imposing a single, strictly personal, interpretation on any extant Linear B tablet, a practice which is fraught with so many pitfalls as to invite certain error and misinterpretation. I would much rather offer all alternative translations of every single last word, phrase, logogram, ideogram etc. in any and all Linear B tablets, than to rashly commit myself to any single translation. It is only in this way that you, our readers, can decide for yourselves which of my translations appears to be the most feasible or appropriate to you in the precise (or more likely than not, not so precise) context of the tablet in question.

No decipherer or translator of Mycenaean Linear B extant tablets or text in his or her right mind has a monopoly on the so-called “right” or “correct” translation of any Mycenaean source, because if that individual imagines he or she does, that person is dreaming in technicolour or – dare I say - even high on psychedelics. The only people who had the very real monopoly, in other words, the actual precise meaning of each and every tablet or source firmly in hand in Mycenaean Linear B were – you guessed it – the Mycenaean scribes themselves. We absolutely must bear this critical consideration in mind at all times whenever we dare approach the translation of any Linear B source, if we are to maintain any sense of the rational golden mean, of our own glaring linguistic inadequacies at a remote of some 3,500 years, and our own decidedly limited cognitive, associative powers of translation, which are in fact extremely circumscribed at the level of the individual translator.

It is only through the greatest sustained, systematic international co-operative effort on the part of all translators of Linear B, let alone of Linear C or of any other ancient language, regardless of script, that we as a community of professional linguists, can ever hope to eventually approximate a reasonably accurate translation. The greater the number of times a (Linear B) tablet is translated, the greater the likelihood that our sustained, combined co-operative efforts at translation is bound to bear positive fruit. Those who insist on being loners in the decipherment or translation of any texts in any in any ancient language run the severe risk of exposing themselves to sharp critical responses and, in the worst case scenario, to public ridicule in the research community specializing in ancient linguistics. Caveat interpres ille. That sort of translator should watch his Ps & Qs.
 
An excellent case in point, the translation of the very first tablet ever deciphered by our genius code-breaker, Michael Ventris, in 1952 & 1953, Pylos Tablet PY 641-1952 (Ventris): Click to ENLARGE:

Pylos Tablet PY 641-1952 Ventis as transslated by Ventris in 1952

We previously discussed the letters between Emmett L. Bennett and Micheal Ventris in June 1952 which effectively broke the code for Mycenaean Linear B, when Bennett first brought to Ventris’  attention his correct translation of the very first word on this famous tablet, tiripode, which unequivocally meant “tripod”. With this master key to Linear B, Ventris was able to decipher the entire tablet in no time flat, making it the first tablet ever to have been translated end-to-end into English. For our commentary on the letters, please click on this banner:

famous letters Ventris re Pylos tablet PY 641-1952
 
Since that time, the tablet has been translated scores and scores of times. Several translators have gone so far as to claim that theirs “is the best translation”. If you will forgive me for saying this, people making such an injudicious claim are all, without exception, wrong. It is only by combining, cross-checking and cross-correlating every last one of the translations attempted to date on this fascinating tablet, Pylos Tablet PY 641-1952, that we can ever hope to come up with at least one or two translations which are bound to meet the criteria for a really top-notch translation. Those criteria are several. I shall address them one by one, finally summarizing all such criteria, throughout the coming year.

In the meantime, stay posted for the latest carefully considered, extremely well-researched and eminently consistent translation of this famous tablet, with fresh new insights, by Rita Roberts, soon to be posted right here on this blog. It is not my own translation, but trust me, it is a highly professional one, fully taking into account a number of historical translations, one of the best of which is that by Michael Ventris himself. I freely admit I could not have matched Rita’s translation myself, for reasons which will be made perfectly clear when we come to post her excellent decipherment early in March 2015. To my mind, it is one of the finest translations of Pylos PY 631-1952 ever penned.

Subsequently, we shall rigorously examine Gretchen Leonhardt’ s translation of the same tablet, to which she assigns the alternative identifier, Pylos PY Ta 641, rather than its usual attribution. It strikes me as rather strange that she would have resorted to the alternate identifier, almost as if she intended - consciously or not - to distance herself from the original translation by Ventris himself. For her translation, please click on this banner:

Pylos Tablet Py 641-1952 Ventris Leonhardt

Ms. Leonhardt’ s decipherment is, if anything, unique and - shall we say - intriguing. We shall see how it stacks up against Michael Ventris’ and Rita Roberts’ translations, meticulously cross-correlating her own translation of every word or ideogram which is at variance with that of the same word or ideogram in either of the other two decipherments. Each translation will then be subjected to a range of rigorous criteria to determine in which respects it is as sound as, or inferior or superior to its other 2 counterparts.  Of course, the table of merits and demerits of each of the three translations is strictly my own interpretation, and as such is as subject to sound linguistic, logical, contextual and practical counter-criticism as any other. Anyone who (strongly) disagrees with my assessments of each of these 3 translations should feel free to address his or her critiques of them. I shall be more than happy to post such criticisms word-for-word on our blog, with the proviso that both Rita Roberts and I myself are free to counter them as we see fit under the strict terms enumerated above.

Richard

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