Rapor 8: Ordinary Lydians at Home: The Lydian Trenches of the House of Bronzes and Pactolus Cliff at Sardis (2021)

by Nancy H. Ramage

Chapter 10. Stratigraphy and Finds from Pactolus Cliff

Following the organization of sector HoB, Part I, the discussion of the PC material will begin with the earliest phases.

Lydian IV

Ninth to Mid-Eighth Century B.C.

Test pits were dug in a number of places in order to see how far back the habitation levels extended at Pactolus Cliff. The test pits were located in the following Zones: 2, 2A, 3, 4, and LVC/S (see plan, Fig. 10.1 and Fig. 9.5).

From the earliest period found at PC, Lydian IV, there were two small architectural features. The earliest, Wall 1, was found in Zone 2 at *87.11. Only two stones wide, it was 0.40 m high and preserved for a length of 0.50 m (Figs. 10.1 and 10.2). It may have been the foundation for a wattle and daub wall, and may be compared to another one of the Early Iron Age in Deep Sounding C in HoB (p. 41 and Fig. 3.8).1 The pottery found in the fill around Wall 1 was 60 percent pithos fragments and 40 percent gray or black monochrome.

In the test pit not far away in Zone 2, at the slightly higher level of *88.50–87.50, again mostly pithos fragments and coarse monochrome pieces were found. At *87.70, an impressed boss from a cooking pot (PC 62), much like two from HoB, was discovered (Fig. 10.3). These knob-like projections could have been attached to the lid or the body of the pot. In each case they have had the same decoration applied to the knob, perhaps made by an object like a small bone impressed in two directions to make an X pattern. All of them had been purposely chipped for reuse, possibly for game pieces, as best seen on HoB 263 (the one at the left). HoB 209 comes from a secure ninth-century context and the one from PC might be of that date, although it is difficult to date cooking ware. Close by, at *87.50, an early Lydian round-mouthed jug of a Phrygian type was found. It was made of a buff fabric and was painted in black, with two bands of concentric three-quarter circles and orange-red slip added across the horizontal bands (PC 1).2 This jug may also have been made as early as the ninth century.

In Zone 3, far down in the diagonal cut at *88.00–87.50, the material was 75 percent monochrome gray or black ware, 15 percent geometric, 5 percent heavy coarse ware, and 5 percent brown-surfaced pottery.3 In addition, two fragments of Black on Red jars with upside-down V shapes filled with diagonal hatching were found (PC 23 and PC 24). These fragments are at least as early as the ninth century, on the evidence of well-stratified fragments in HoB. Other contemporary pieces from close by were a fragment of a krater with crosshatched diamonds (PC 22), a crosshatched meander fragment (PC 25), and a monochrome double handle with a boss at its base (PC 21).

In Zone 4, a row of large stones, here called Wall 2 (although it may not have been a wall), was probably also from this early period. It was found in the test pit near the southern end of the trench and close to the cliff’s edge (Fig. 10.4).4 It was made of seven large stones, the dimensions of each being about 0.40 × 0.40 × 0.25 m. Their appearance was rather like a row of boulders, and they may have served as a barrier meant to hold back the river. In another test pit in Zone 4 at the same level, the large stones of Wall 2 seemed to continue (see Figs. 10.1 and 10.7). Once again, the ceramic material associated with this wall consisted of 50 percent pithos fragments and 50 percent gray or black monochrome.

Pottery found in the test pit at the lowest levels of LVC/S, at the southeastern corner of the PC trench, included geometric pottery—some local, some imported. A fragmentary but elaborate geometric piece came from a large Lydian vessel (PC 131; see Fig. 1.14). In one group (at *87.40–87.00), a krater fragment with an elegant painted checkerboard pattern (PC 133) was found together with two handles, one of which has a delicate and unusual incised design.5 Of note among the other Gray Ware fragments were a baby feeder (PC 136) for which there are parallels in HoB from a ninth- or eighth-century level in Deep Sounding C (HoB 215); a small fragment of a hearth stand (PC 132); and a jug fragment (PC 134), again with parallels in HoB from Lydian IV.6

Although Lydian IV at PC is somewhat difficult to interpret, it is clear that these early Lydians made their foundations out of stones much larger than the typical walls of the subsequent period, and that they used almost exclusively pithoi for storage and monochrome pottery for household needs, but with the occasional pieces of pottery with geometric decoration. Their Gray Ware in particular has an appealing surface, often burnished, and sometimes decorated with a silvery wash.7

At about *87.00, throughout the trench, there was a stratum of stream-washed sand and pebbles, and below this, a dearth of sherds of any kind. The lowest level of the excavation in PC was in the test pit in the diagonal cut of Zone 3, where, at *84.57 the water table was reached.

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Lydian III

Mid- to Late Eighth Century B.C.

In contrast to the scarcity of walls from Lydian IV, architectural remains from Lydian III, in the form of walls and a “cobbled street,” are well represented in PC (Fig. 10.5). The levels where the pottery of this period were found ranged from *88.80 to *87.00; in other words, partly at the same level as the material from Lydian IV. This must be accounted for, and can best be explained by a combination of downward sloping ground (from east to west and from north to south) and by the possible existence of pits or gullies—natural or artificial.

Walls 3, 4, and 5 belong to the period of Lydian III. Their lowest courses are at level *88.00, or approximately 0.50 m above the walls of Lydian IV. Unlike the boulder-like construction of the walls of the previous period, the stones of most of these walls were set in somewhat regular courses (Fig. 10.6). They were usually river or field stones composed of gneiss or schist, the exception being Wall 4, which was built of “large carefully set oblong pieces of limestone.” Wall 5 “was extremely well constructed of much smaller river stones.”8 Those two walls, 4 and 5, although constructed quite differently from each other (Fig. 10.7) and with footings at different levels, seem to have been used at some point as the two sides of a water channel. What appeared to be a capping stone was preserved at the southern end of Wall 5. A tiny fragment with the pattern of a wing of a terracotta bird or of an animal skin (PC 43), possibly nonlocal, was found between Walls 4 and 5.

The stones of Wall 3,9 running east to west, would have served as the base for a mudbrick or pisé superstructure set into them in the typical Lydian manner (Fig. 10.8), and indeed a narrow channel at the top with some traces of pisé still in situ was observed.10 The wall had larger stones on the lower courses than the upper ones, and rubble was used to fill the interior. This wall ran into the parallel Walls 4 and 5, and made an obtuse corner, but was not bonded to them.

In Zone 2, large stones lying more or less in rows on the east side of Wall 5 (extending from *88.40 to *87.60) looked like a series of steps (Fig. 10.9). There seemed to be four of them descending toward the east, to a level about one meter below the footing of Wall 5, but whether these really were steps, or rather some kind of wall base, is not clear. At the bottom, they met what looked like a cobbled area that was three to four meters wide (Fig. 10.10). This was thought to be a street, and gave the impression of winding its way down a slope; but within this area, A. Ramage detected a row of stones that more or less continued the east–west line of Wall 3 on its southern side. He believes that at this point there may have been some kind of retaining wall, and that this was perhaps later turned into a street.

The pottery from the levels of these “steps” (Zone 2 at *88.40–87.60) appeared to be consistently late eighth-century material, based on comparison with finds from HoB. The excavators found mostly Gray Ware (70 percent), and much of the rest was pithos fragments and cooking ware (25 percent). Only seven painted sherds turned up, including a Black on Red shoulder and neck of a jug (PC 32). A Gray Ware lid with a squared hole for a ladle (PC 33) is of a type found frequently in both PC and HoB.11 Nearby were small flat strips of bronze with slightly flaring tips that may be the remains of a pair of tweezers.

Later eighth-century material was also found in other areas at comparable levels. For instance, to the west of Wall 4, in Zone 2A, the levels yielded part of a fine geometric jug of mainland Greek manufacture (PC 64). Also found here were fragments of Black on Red with concentric circles or semicircles (PC 66 and PC 67), and a Black on Red fragment with tightly spaced wavy lines where the painter’s multiple brush was moved up and down to make a decorative pattern (PC 63). A particularly fine example of this type of decoration is seen on a fragment from the first Sardis expedition (1910–14), held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (see Fig. 1.13). At lower levels (*88.00–87.00) in a test pit in Zone 4, at the southwest corner of the steps, chiefly monochrome sherds were found, but also a bird kotyle of the type with four panels, ca. 720–700 B.C. (PC 11);12 and a Black on Red dish fragment with an unusual wheel-like design (PC 2). From the area just east of the stepped area, between *88.40 and *88.00, came two pithos fragments with incisions: one with elaborate pendent triangles with diagonal crosshatching (PC 35), and another that Hanfmann thought might have signs representing an early form of writing (PC 36).13 Also in this group was a bird bowl14 (PC 34) and a yellow on black glass bead found slightly higher, at *88.50 (PC 38).15

In one area of Zone 2, to the northeast of the stepped area, and approximately at the level of the base of Wall 5, the excavator noted “marked mudbrick stains and signs of conflagration at *88.70.” The material found immediately on this burned layer should be placed in the late eighth century (Lydian III). A Lydian Orientalizing krater decorated with a charming row of swimming fish below the rim (PC 39; see Fig. 1.16) found here requires a later date, in the early seventh century at the earliest. How the krater fragments got there is unclear.

Several Early Protocorinthian cups came from below the burned area, including a kotyle dated by Schaeffer as Late Geometric or Early Protocorinthian (PC 46); the rim and upper body of a linear kotyle with a “wire bird” (about 700 B.C., PC 41);16 fragments of a particularly fine Early Protocorinthian kotyle (PC 40), and of another that was found nearby at a slightly higher level but still under the burned level (PC 47). Hanfmann thought that this whole area was part of the Kimmerian destruction of 652 B.C.,17 but we now believe that this level, with a catastrophic fire of the late eighth century, was the Destruction Level, widely recorded in sector HoB. The evidence of burning in PC is found also on the floor at *89.55 just to the west.

Below a pebble floor in Zone 1, at *88.00–87.50 (see below in Lydian II), the finds were 70 percent gray or black monochrome, 10 percent coarse red, and 20 percent white Bichrome and Black on Red fragments. Among them was an omphalos with Black on Red decoration, cut down from a bowl for reuse (PC 72; see Fig. 1.3).18 Many such pieces found in PC, and also in HoB (P63.545), would have been used as stoppers or game pieces. Other finds from the lowest levels of Zone 1 (*88.00–87.50) included fragments of an East Greek Geometric vessel (PC 73); a Lydian Geometric plate (PC 69); a white Bichrome stemmed dish (PC 68); and a Lydian imitation of an East Greek lebes (PC 71). These finds could all go back to Lydian IV.

A test pit dug in the northern part of Zone 2A, between Walls 3 and 4 (see Fig. 10.5), reinforces our impression of the proportions of different types of Lydian pottery found at comparable levels in other parts of PC. The lower levels here had material from Lydian III, with many pieces of Gray Ware, including a highly polished base that had been smoothed and carefully cut down for reuse, perhaps as a stopper (PC 65). Also here were coarse red and pithos fragments, and a small amount of painted geometric pottery. Thus, at *88.00–87.75, only 10 percent were geometric painted, whereas slightly higher, at *88.74–88.40, 40 percent were geometric. A similar change in relative proportions is also observed in HoB, strengthening the connection between the two sectors. At the lower level (at *87.70) were two fragments of painted ware from two different vessels with a remarkable gold sheen from the mica wash that was incorporated in the surface finish (PC 60 and PC 61).19 Another piece from a somewhat later and higher level, *88.40–88 is an early seventh-century East Greek fragment (PC 67).

In the diagonal cut through Zone 3, many pieces of early Lydian Geometric were found. Although precise information about the findspots was not recorded, we can again observe close parallels to material from HoB. Crosshatched zigzags and diamonds, butterfly patterns, and crosshatched meanders make good comparisons to mid-eighth-century fragments from that sector.20

From south of the tamped floor of the subsequent period, at *87.80, a Gray Ware baby feeder (PC 12) may be compared to the Lydian IV example from LVC/S (PC 136). The first of these may be as early as the second, but was found in a later eighth-century context. Others were found in sector HoB.21

A meter and a half below the hard-packed tamped floor, the material is consistently from the period of Lydian III or earlier. Some of the pots (e.g., two large Black on Red dishes, each with stemmed foot: PC 26 and PC 27) are remarkably similar to Lydian IV material from sectors HoB and ByzFort. At *88.00, those two dishes were found together with other eighth or even ninth century material. Other eighth century finds were a pithos with a graffito (PC 28) and a large Bichrome jar fragment (PC 29). A similar piece, with almost the identical scheme, comes from HoB (HoB 334) and must have been decorated by the same pot painter (see Fig. 1.15).22

At LVC/S, near the Lydian IV finds noted above (see p. 118) but at a slightly higher level (*88.00), was found a Protocorinthian early linear kotyle dating to 720–690 B.C. (PC 124);23 fragments of two East Greek jugs with a similar vocabulary (PC 126 and PC 127); and a flat pierced lug handle with Bichrome decoration (PC 125). In the comparable levels of LVC/N (*87.50–87.00), 85 percent of the pottery was monochrome, 10 percent pithos fragments, and 5 percent “other.” A few noteworthy pieces include: Gray Ware (PC 106); a pithos with graffito (PC 105); and painted ware: geometric PC 107 and a fragment of a jug with diagonal crosshatching (PC 104).

In sum, the pottery assemblages of Lydian III are characterized by a heavy proportion of Gray and Buff Wares, but also by pottery with geometric patterns in either imported East Greek or local wares. None of the Lydian III material shows the refined, delicate, and shiny Black on Red that is typical of Lydian II and Lydian I (see p. 11 in Chapter 1). Instead, the typical patterns are meanders, semicircles, concentric circles, or wavy-line patterns. Bichrome is represented in only a few pieces, and what was found is of the earlier variety, without added red paint.

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Lydian II

Early to Mid-Seventh Century B.C.

There is relatively little pottery from Lydian II (Fig. 10.11) and Lydian I at PC, compared to what was found at HoB. PC of course covers a much smaller area, but this is also due, perhaps, to the fact that Hellenistic and Roman tombs cut away later levels and were set directly on Lydian III walls.

At the eastern end of Zone 1, to the east of Wall 5, two floors were identified: a mud floor of 0.08 m thickness at *88.80, and a pebble floor at *88.40. On the upper mud floor was a coarse gray neck and shoulder of a large pot with a silver wash (PC 90) that was associated with charcoal and a piece of bone. Many small bits of charcoal also littered the floor. Most of the pottery was monochrome sherds, including a Gray Ware cook stand fragment, but 5 percent was painted, including two fragments of Bichrome, three fragments of an East Greek (?) black glaze jug, and two Lydian Black on Red fragments with concentric circles. This group is early seventh-century material, and thus the mud floor falls in the Lydian II period.

Between the two floors, the ceramic material consisted of 70 percent black or gray monochrome and cooking pot, 20 percent plain brown, 5 percent brown and red slip or burnished, and 5 percent painted, as well as several monochrome carinated bowls and fragments of poor slip ware.

On the pebble floor itself lay a Greek Geometric sherd of about 700 B.C. (PC 78), but a three-panel bird bowl of ca. 670–650 B.C. (PC 77), also found on the floor, requires that the floor be put in Lydian II.24 At 0.20 m below the pebble floor were fragments of a Lydian Geometric plate (PC 74) that may go back to the ninth century, based on comparisons of the profile with similar plates from ByzFort and Field 49 (see Chapter 1, pp. 11, 13). If so, this plate should probably be explained as an intrusion from an earlier level.

Material from a rather wide range of levels in Zone 1 (at *88.75–88.00) has a high proportion of gray and black monochrome (70 percent), but also a rich selection of Lydian painted pieces.25 These pots are apparently not from the pebble floor but from farther west in Zone 1, although the precise findspots were not recorded. Some of this group is datable to Lydian II, the third quarter of the seventh century, by an East Greek bird bowl (PC 87).

The lowest phase of another wall from Lydian II (Wall 7), constructed of “flat carefully laid stones,”26 was found at the northern edge of the trench, running east–west.27 It was built on top of another wall that was a bit wider. A layer of mud, ca. 0.20 m thick, lay between the two stages of construction. Below the lower wall, the material included a good deal of material of Lydian III.

Five walls and a related floor (Zone 3 at *89.55) were associated with Lydian II material. A roughly square area, recognizable by a tamped floor of burned clay, clearly stood out, after excavation, at the edge of the cliff (Figs. 10.12 and 10.13; see Fig. 9.7). In Figure 10.13, the relationship of PC to the Pactolus River can be seen clearly, and the village of Sart, which never lost its ancient name, is visible in the background. Also in this photograph can be seen an interesting connection between modern and ancient Sardis: the villagers were here drying mudbricks for their houses or sheds, using the same technique of sun-dried clay as was used in antiquity.

The tamped floor was bordered by Walls 8 and 8a on the east and north respectively. Wall 8 was “made of markedly small carefully laid stones”28 and abutted Wall 8a, which was an addition or repair of quite inferior quality. The builders who added Wall 8a built right on the floor itself—instead of following the usual Lydian practice of cutting a foundation trench and putting the stone base about 0.20 m below the floor level. It was probably constructed during a remodeling of the room, and then may in turn have provided stones for the later, but parallel, Wall 9.29

The fill above the hard-packed mud floor was full of marble fragments and rubble from Hellenistic or Roman construction, but the floor could be dated by its most northerly area closest to the long east–west Wall 9, where the soil had not been disturbed. The house or building that was associated with the tamped floor was destroyed by a disaster, as is indicated by a layer of charcoal and fallen mudbrick and burned debris found lying upon it. What caused its demise, whether earthquake or fire, or less likely, human violence, is uncertain. The active period of the building associated with this floor was short-lived, and the floor itself had been built on an earlier destruction layer within Lydian III.30 The material found on the tamped floor was mostly gray and black monochrome (80 percent). Painted ware included a Protocorinthian kotyle (PC 17) and a Lydian imitation of the same (PC 14) as well as a Black on Red fragment of a jar (?) with concentric semicircles and crosshatched squares (PC 15). Beside the pottery, the only other indication of domestic activity related to the floor was a biconical spindle whorl, PC 16.

Below the tamped floor of Zone 3, some pots similar to those described above in Lydian III were found, but also some pottery that must fall toward the middle of the seventh century. Thus we must assign this material below the floor, as well as the floor itself, to Lydian II. From 0.30 m below the floor, at *89.25, came an East Greek jug (PC 13), and an Orientalizing shallow bowl of uncertain fabric (PC 18) that could be dated to the late seventh century at the earliest.31

Wall 6,32 running east to west near the south end of the trench, was built upon an earlier wall, as is evident from the slightly different alignment of the foundation from the stones above.33 Based on its level, the earlier phase of Wall 6 belongs in Lydian II, while the later construction built on top of it is Lydian I. A doorway ca. 0.90 m wide near the western end of the wall was blocked up at some later date. This wall divides the area between “LVC/N” and “LVC/S.”

A short L-shaped wall on the eastern side of the trench in Zone 2 is built over part of the cobbled area of Lydian III. Its relation to the other Lydian II walls is not clear.

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Lydian I

Later Seventh to Mid-Sixth Century B.C.

The only structures to have been built in the excavated areas of PC during Lydian I (Fig. 10.14) were Wall 9, near the north end of the trench, at *90.10–90.00; and the later phase of Wall 6. Wall 9 was built on the destruction debris of Lydian II, and in turn served as a foundation for the dromos of the Hellenistic Tomb of the Lintel.34 This is the longest of the preserved walls, measuring 10.50 m, with a width of 0.80 m. Since it had no crosswalls at either side, it may be thought of as an enclosure wall, probably for an area toward the north side.

Wall 6 must still have been in existence when Wall 9 was built;35 this was evident because the level of Wall 6, *90.50–89.00 at the eastern end, was comparable to that of Wall 9, whereas the other walls did not come up to this height. Since a street probably lay between Walls 6 and 9, we may assume that both walls served as enclosures for areas on either side of it.

A floor marked by charcoal and mudbrick stains, at *90.15 in Zone 2, to the south of Wall 9, belonged to the period of Lydian I. Some of the objects found under it had sixth-century characteristics, and the proportions are typical of what one associates with Lydian I: 40 percent Black on Red, 20 percent other geometric, 10 percent streaky, 10 percent monochrome, 15 percent plain red, and 5 percent “other.” A particularly attractive fragment is the shoulder of a jug with pendent concentric hooks. The painter stopped here in the middle of his design to reload his brush, and made an unusual break in the curvature of the concentric hooks (PC 51; see Fig. 1.12). From just above the floor came pithos (PC 54) and Gray Ware sherds (PC 52), both with incised graffiti, and an imported painted lid fragment (PC 53).36 Even higher above the level of the floor, at *90.50, was found a well preserved terracotta sima tile with scroll pattern, painted with unusually thick slip (PC 55),37 and 0.20 m above that, at the eastern end of the trench, a terracotta cover tile with a painted black diamond (PC 56). These tiles, ca. 580–540 B.C., are among the latest finds from PC. They were found together with pithos fragments with a herringbone pattern incised on the shoulder (PC 58) and also a large jar with its body painted with a brownish-red crisscross pattern on a white slip background (PC 57). From comparable levels in Zone 1, just to the north of the floor in Zone 2, a good deal of Lydian painted pottery was found, of which 30 percent was Black on Red and 5 percent Bichrome, including a tiny but unusual Bichrome lid fragment (PC 102).

Lydian material abounded in the upper levels of Zone 1, despite the foundation trenches dug in Hellenistic times. At levels comparable to the floor in Zone 2 (*90.30–90.00), fully 40 percent was plain undecorated red, while 30 percent was Black on Red, and the rest Bichrome or streaky. This group was mostly typical of later seventh- or early sixth-century material.38 From levels just below this (*90.00–89.50), painted ware still predominated: Geometric 40 percent, Black on Red 20 percent, Bichrome 15 percent, and gray/black monochrome 10 percent. Pottery included a late East Greek bird bowl, ca. 625 B.C. (PC 96) and a Bichrome skyphos krater with pendent hooks made by a highly skilled pot painter (PC 97; see Fig. 1.12). The Lydian fragments are typical of Lydian I: they included several Black on Red plates (see p. 13), a Gray Ware bowl with graffito (PC 86) and a Bichrome handle with a crosshatched diamond pattern (PC 76).39

Remains of a canine ritual dinner of a type usually including puppy bones and a knife were found in the northern section of the trench. Four pots of the standard type for this kind of hoard were found at *89.80 near Wall 9, where the objects had probably been put in a pit (Fig. 10.15); it was a common practice for so-called puppy burials to be placed close to a wall.40 No knife or bones were recorded as being associated with the group, although it is possible that these items were not kept, as it was early in the excavation history of the dig, and not yet understood in 1960 that the knife and bones were an integral feature of this kind of ritual assemblage. The group included the usual types of pottery, and it therefore belongs to the “caches” as defined by Greenewalt and mentioned in Part I of this volume (p. 97):

PC 95 jug, one handled,

PC 94 olpe, complete (dipped or painted on upper body)

PC 93 plain skyphos fragment

PC 92 Black on Red stemmed dish

All the puppy burials at HoB and Pactolus North (PN) fall within Lydian I, and not particularly early in that period; that is, apparently after ca. 600 or 575, and certainly before 525 B.C.41 The pots in puppy burials were notable for being in a good state of preservation,42 and this is true for the PC group as well. Greenewalt pointed out that the PC assemblage extended the area where canine ritual dinners were found, as this one was uncovered over 500 meters from the HoB assemblages.

In the more southerly end of the trench, in LVC/N at *89.50–88.00, the pottery appears to be mostly Lydian III, but because some is Lydian I, the level has been categorized as late. The material included a small fragment of raw amber, 0.008 × 0.006 m (PC 108) and a large elaborately decorated Bichrome pyxis (PC 115), as well as other local and imported pottery, including a bird bowl fragment (PC 119).43

Lydian I levels can be identified by the presence of such later characteristics as streaky ware or Orientalizing features. Earlier pieces at PC are frequently found at these later levels, but were apparently either still lying around or somehow got churned up into the later levels.

***

As shown in these pages, the walls, floors, and pottery at sector PC are both complicated and interesting, and the pottery in particular adds many fine examples to our inventory of Lydian ceramic production over the course of the eighth century (or earlier) to the mid-sixth. This small site, hovering above the Pactolus River, has many parallels to its much larger cousin found below and near the Roman House of Bronzes. PC provides a rich addition to the study of Lydian pottery, and also gives more insight into the kinds of walls and floors that the Lydians built, even without producing any whole buildings.

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Notes

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