Posted by: archaccess | January 6, 2016

The future of Norfolk’s Archaeological Services

Norfolk County Council are potentially looking at restructure in order to save costs. Under the current proposal this would mean the loss of the Finds Identification and Recording Service, reducing the number of new and enhanced HER records and ending all community support activities. lme14-2

There is a deadline of the 14th January for responses from the general public, so please make yourself heard, particularly if you currently use these services and would be affected by the changes. The Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society have provided some guidance with questions to think about before responding to this consultation as well as other ways in which to get in contact with the council and can be accessed here.

If you would like to go directly to the Norfolk Council Website and read more about this click here, or to go directly to the page about the changes to the Historic Environment Service please click here.

 

Posted by: stourarch | December 18, 2015

Happy Christmas from ACA

Christmas card 2015

We would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from us all here at ACA!

We’re looking forward to starting a new field season of archaeology in the spring, so hopefully we’ll be seeing many of you again in 2016.

Posted by: archaccess | December 18, 2015

Snape Fieldwalking Report Available for Download

The report from the Touching the Tide fieldwalking project held in Snape, Suffolk in 2014 is now available to download from the ACA website here.

Posted by: archaccess | December 10, 2015

ACA Annual Report 2014-15

2014-15 was another busy academic year for Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA), directed by Dr Carenza Lewis, including a full complement of Higher Education Field Academies (HEFA), various community projects and a programme of events with HLF landscape partnership scheme, Touching the Tide.

Catherine Ranson continued in her role as archaeological supervisor with Jessica Rippengal (Division of Archaeology) providing part-time support for excavation supervision. After four years with the ACA team Clemency Cooper took up a new role with the Portable Antiquities Scheme in December 2014 and Laure Bonner joined as administrator in January 2015. Dr Jenni French (Peterhouse, Cambridge) and Dr Trish Biers (MAA) continued in assessing HEFA students’ written reports as well as delivering sessions on report writing skills during the HEFA.

In October 2014 ACA celebrated 10 years of outreach work. Dr Carenza Lewis presented a public lecture to over 200 people in which she recounted highlights of ACA’s outreach work and shared her considerable achievements in engaging schools and communities. You can read all about that event here.

10 year anniv

Celebrating 10 Years of ACA: From Time Team to Archaeology For All

In 2014-15 a total of 16 HEFAs were run  in Shefford, Hillington*, North Warnborough, Brundall* (x2), Rampton, Southminster*, Walberswick, Hadleigh*, Sawtry, Blo’ Norton*, Great Amwell, Long Melford, Hindringham, Riseley and Manuden (*indicates villages excavated for the first time in 2015). In 2014-15 668 learners attended HEFA from 62 schools, accompanied by 128 school staff, with the University of Cambridge Widening Participation Project funding thereby providing 2004 learner days. 84 per cent of learners attended from high priority schools with low levels of progression rates to HE, GCSE attainment and ‘Value Added’ indices. 93 per cent of all participants rated it as ‘Excellent’ or Good’ and the number intending to apply to university increased by 18 per cent, to a Russell Group university by 49 per cent and to Cambridge by 55 per cent.

Hillington HEFA 2015

Students participating in the Hillington, Norfolk HEFA March 2015

Additionally, ACA carried out several community outreach projects in East Anglia throughout 2014/15. Under ACA supervision, in September and May, Stour Valley Community Archaeology continued excavations of the well-preserved late Anglo-Saxon manorial complex at Goldingham Hall, Bulmer (Essex).

Goldingham 2015

Stour Valley Community Archaeology carry on excavations at Goldingham Hall, Essex May 2015

In September, encouraged by the success of their community project in 2012, residents of Nayland (Suffolk) carried out further excavations of 16 test-pits with the support of ACA, identifying a surge of 11th c. activity in this region of the Stour Valley. Funded by the Sudbury Museums Trust (Suffolk), in October ACA ran the ‘Sudbury Big Dig’ where 31 test pits were dug by more than 100 local residents and school children revealing the early Anglo-Saxon origins of the town.

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Sudbury Big Dig, October 2014

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The diggers were out in full force for the Nayland test pits, September 2014

In conjunction with Touching the Tide ACA ran two community-based projects on the Suffolk Coast. The first event in January saw 36 local residents braving the cold to fieldwalk at Covehithe, a village rapidly eroding into the North Sea.

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Cat Ranson records the fieldwalking finds at Covehithe, January 2015

The second project was a 9-day excavation at Dunwich intent on revealing the remains of this once-thriving medieval port. Around 50 local volunteers, ranging in age from 6 to 80, uncovered a well-preserved c. 12th century street and associated house plot, original medieval harbour revetments and evidence for the original eastern boundary wall of the Greyfriar’s precinct. This excavation highlighted the previously unknown extent of medieval archaeology still surviving in Dunwich today which will hopefully lead to further coastal archaeological work before this valuable resource is lost forever to the sea.

Dunwich 2015

Excavating outside the Greyfriar’s Precinct as part of the Touching the Tide excavations at Dunwich, July 2015

Touching the Tide also provided funding for a 6-week archaeological internship, specifically focused on the Dunwich dig. Nina O’Hare, a recent archaeology graduate of the University of Cambridge, was the successful candidate and her role focused on background research, liaising with the local community and post-excavation work. We wish Nina all the best for the future and are pleased that she has now gone on to secure a position as a field archaeologist with Worcestershire County Council.

Team Dunwich

The ACA Team at Dunwich: (l-r) Dr Carenza Lewis, Catherine Ranson, John Newman, Nina O’Hare, Jessica Rippengal, Laure Bonner

After 11 years as ACA’s founder and director, Dr Carenza Lewis left the University of Cambridge for a professorship at the University of Lincoln. Carenza is now a Professor of the Public Understanding of Research and maintains close links with ACA and the HEFA programme.

2015-16 is shaping up to be another exciting year for ACA. Currently, 15 HEFAs are scheduled for the spring/summer and ACA will also be working on a number of outreach events with the Division of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge. We are also carrying out further community events in conjunction with the Cambridge Archaeological Unit and several local community groups in East Anglia. The HEFA programme is also going further afield and has already been trialled in Lincolnshire (in conjunction with the University of Lincoln) with great success. Watch this space!

 

The University of Lincoln

The University of Lincoln

Last week ACA had the pleasure of taking part in the first ever HEFA in Lincolnshire as a collaborative venture between the University of Cambridge and the University of Lincoln funded by the Lincolnshire Outreach Network, a partnership of higher education institutions and colleges in greater Lincolnshire. As part of her new position as Professor of Public Understanding of Research at the University of Lincoln Carenza Lewis, former ACA director and HEFA founder, wanted to bring the highly-successful HEFA programme to Lincolnshire and hopefully this is the first of many field academies to come.

TP 10  hard at work

TP 10 hard at work

The village of Bardney, a site well-known for its Abbey ruins, hosted a total of 40 Year 9 – 13 students who represented 12 different schools from throughout the county including: William Farr School, Caistor Yarborough Academy, Melior Community Academy, Peele Community Academy, Boston High School, South Axholme Academy, Branston Community Academy, Giles Academy, Lincoln Castle Academy, Priory LSST, Kesteven and Grantham Girls School and West Grantham Academy St Hugh’s. The 10 test-pits in the village were organised by Pat Rennie of the Bardney Heritage Group and were located on Abbey Road, Queen Street, Station Road, Church Lane and Manor Farm Lane and the base for the two digging days was the Methodist Hall on Church Lane.

High Medieval pottery from TP 1

High Medieval pottery from TP 1

The students worked in mixed school groups and were supervised by teachers, volunteers from the University of Lincoln and members of Lincoln Archaeology Group for Excavation Education and Research.

After receiving a briefing on Day 1 from Professor Lewis about how to excavate and record the test pits, the students went out and started digging (just after it finished raining)! Cat Ranson, ACA senior archaeological supervisor, and Laure Bonner, ACA administrator, toured the test pits providing guidance on excavating and recording techniques as well as identifying finds. Alex Beeby, Heritage Lincolnshire pottery specialist, was also on site on Day 2 to help identify finds and date pottery sherds.

Laure visits TP 9

Laure visits TP 9

Having experts on hand to provide real-time feedback about finds and dates is highly appreciated by the participants and is always included in the feedback: “I also enjoyed finding out what the items we found were, where they dated from and why they were of significance,” (GO) and “I enjoyed learning whether the artefact was from the medieval or from another period.” (GW) The finalised pottery report, written by Paul Blinkhorn, pottery expert, can be downloaded here.

Post-Medieval pottery from TP 3

Post-Medieval pottery from TP 3

In this first phase of test-pitting in Bardney, no evidence was uncovered of an Anglo-Saxon settlement which is suprising as Bardney Abbey was first founded in the 7th century and the village is recorded in the Domesday Book. It is hoped that further test pits can be excavated in the village in the future; ideally 30-40 pits give a good idea about settlement patterns. Based on our findings from last week the highest concentration of High medieval pottery (c. mid 11th century to end of 14th century) came from the pits near St Lawrence Church and those on Station Road, although 80% of test pits produced some high medieval pottery. 70% of pits produced Late Medieval pottery which suggests at least initially that Bardney may not have been too badly devastated by the Black Death in the 14th century.

The ITV Calendar team film Carenza at TP 2

The ITV Calendar team film Carenza and students at TP 2

Test pits 2 and 3 both produced impressive amounts of large, non-abraded medieval and post-medieval pottery. TP 2 produced a possible medieval iron arrowhead and iron buckle. TP 3 also had a few small finds of note, to include a leather shoe sole and post-Medieval carved bone knife handle. The iron artefacts and shoe sole will be conserved at the University of Lincoln.

Possible medieval iron arrowhead and buckle

Possible medieval iron arrowhead and buckle

Leather shoe sole from TP 3

Leather shoe sole from TP 3

We were pleased that the event received so much media attention, including a feature on both ITV Calendar, which you can view here, and a segment on BBC Radio Lincolnshire. The Lincolnshire Echo also produced an article with lots of fun photographs which you can view here.

The aims of HEFA are many and once the practical archaeological portion had been completed in Bardney, it was time to learn more about higher education. Students spent Day 3 of the HEFA at the University of Lincoln. They learned about how their hard work contributes to ongoing university research, including the study of Currently Occupied Rural Settlements, and how to develop and deploy skills for life, learning and employment such as data analysis, communication skills and team working.

HEFA students also had the opportunity to tour around the university and have lunch. Students always enjoy this opportunity and specifically commented in feedback “I enjoyed being in the uni and having a taste of what uni is,” (IC) and “I also enjoyed finding more out about university life through the campus tour and have a better idea of my options within higher education.” (GO) They also received a talk from Abi Paine of the Lincolnshire Outreach Network about applying to university and future opportunities.

Carved bone knife handle c. 16th century

Carved bone knife handle c. 16th century

This was followed by a presentation on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation by Dr Trish Biers of the University of Cambridge. The mark scheme and additional information about the written assignment can be found here.

In feedback after the HEFA, 94% of participants rated the event as “Excellent” or “Good”. General comments in feedback from the students included, “I’ve become more confident in myself and my skills have developed and I would recommend the HEFA experience,” (EW) “I have gained experience in working in a team and learning about university” (ER) and “I enjoyed making new friends in our test pit group and working in a team.” (TC) School staff commented, “The field academy is a fantastic opportunity for students to gain an insight into higher education, gain totally new experiences and meet pupils from other schools. Excellent skills for the future. When can I come again!?!” (AH)

Extra help at TP 2

Extra help at TP 2

ACA would like to thank the students and staff of all the schools involved, the supervisors and the residents of Bardney for making this first Lincolnshire HEFA so successful. Special thanks go to Pat for organising the pits, to Emma of the University of Lincoln and Abi of the Lincolnshire Outreach Network for coordinating the students and staff and for funding the project.

The pottery report from last weekend’s community test-pit digging project in Longstanton is now available for download here from the ACA website. From the report it would appear that the Saxons were busy!

This evidence ties in with the large-scale excavations which recently concluded at nearby Northstowe. Hopefully, future community excavations will be held in Longstanton revealing more of how the village developed.

Pottery from context 4 of Test Pit 1

Pottery from context 4 of Test Pit 1

Thanks to Paul Blinkhorn, our Anglo-Saxon and medieval pottery specialist, for such a quick turn around on the report.

Posted by: archaccess | October 12, 2015

Longstanton Community Test-Pit Digging, 10-11 October 2015

TP 6 at St Michael's Mount

TP 6 at St Michael’s Mount

This past weekend, Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA) had the privilege of running a community test-pit event in the village of Longstanton, Cambridgeshire. ACA ran the event in conjunction with the Cambridge Archaeological Unit (CAU) as an outreach project tying in the archaeology of Longstanton with that of the nearby, recently concluded excavations of the Phase 1 site at the planned new town of Northstowe. During these large-scale excavations by the CAU, four distinct sites from the Iron Age, Roman, Saxon and medieval periods have been investigated at Northstowe; could the Longstanton test-pits, a small snap-shot of this village’s archaeology, produce similar material?

Alison Dickens of the CAU discusses the Northstowe project

Alison Dickens of the CAU discusses the Northstowe project

Archaeology of Northstowe Phase One Site

Archaeology of Northstowe Phase One Site

Organised by Rodney Scarle and hosted by Hilary Stroude of the Longstanton and District Heritage Society a small cohort of 14 volunteers excavated a total of five test-pits over the weekend. Our base for the weekend was The Manor Longstanton which was also the site of one of the test-pits; the others were located in private gardens on Brewer’s Close, Brookfield Drive, Prentice Close and St Michael’s Mount.

Cat visits TP 3

Cat visits TP 3

TP2 hard at work

TP2 hard at work

TP 5 at The Manor

TP 5 at The Manor

All of the test pits produced interesting finds and aided our understanding of the development of this site. Most test-pits produced early pottery and once the finalised pottery analysis report has been completed it will be linked here.To see the pottery distribution map and find out more about the history of the area have a look at the dedicated Longstanton page on the ACA website.

Laure visits TP 1 nearest the Northstowe site

Laure visits TP 1 nearest the Northstowe site

Emma and Sheila at TP 3

Emma and Sheila at TP 3

Of particular note is TP 1 at the north of the village and, indeed, the closest to the Northstowe site. This test-pit produced early pottery and a Roman coin, a probable small bronze of Honorius (393-423 AD). It also included a feature at approximately 70cm which is a possible ditch terminus or pit edge. This feature also produced in situ pottery which, once analysed, will give us an approximate date for the feature.

TP1 finds

TP1 finds

TP 1 c. 4th-5th century Roman coin

TP 1 c. 4th-5th century Roman coin

In feedback after the event, 100% of volunteers rated the event as “Excellent” or “Good”. It is hoped that further community archaeology events will take place in the future to investigate this interesting site further as there is so much more to learn about not only its development but its relationship to the complex archaeology at Northstowe.

Rodney helps out with the sieving

Rodney helps out with the sieving

Examining the finds

Examining the finds

Thank you again to all of the volunteers who came out to make this another successful community event and special thanks to Rodney for organising and Hilary for hosting. We hope to be visiting you again soon!

Posted by: archaccess | September 4, 2015

Dunwich Pottery Reports are in!

The excavations in Dunwich were completed last month by ACA in conjunction with Touching the Tide, and we are pleased to announce that the first results from the dig are in!

Trench 4 backfilled

A backfilled Trench 4 in the car park, a week after the excavation              

13th century pottery from Trench 3 in the woods along St James' Street

13th century pottery from Trench 3 in the woods along St James’ Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Separate pottery reports from both the trenches and test pits have been completed by our pottery expert Paul Blinkhorn and can be seen on our Dunwich page on the ACA website. Keep an eye on the blog and website for more results as they come in.

Posted by: archaccess | August 5, 2015

Dunwich Dig – Day 9

Where does time go? Somehow we have already reached Day 9 – the last day of our Touching the Tide funded Dunwich Dig. Despite the high risk of being asked to backfill at some point during the day, a fair number of wonderful volunteers turned up to see the dig through to the very end. We were also joined by several more aspiring archaeologists, eager to have a go at digging before all the trenches and test pits are filled back in.

With the exception of some final recording work (photographing and drawing), all trenches and most test pits were finished off yesterday, only leaving Test Pits 10, 12 and the newly opened 13 to be dug today. Although it was suggested yesterday that Test Pit 10, between Trenches 3 and 4 in the garden of 1 Coastguard Cottages, had reached the natural underlying geology at 1m, some impressive digging by one of our younger volunteers showed that archaeological deposits actually went down to a depth of 1.2m. The remains of the religious hospital, Maison Dieu, Test Pit 10 was searching for may not have survived, but it is interesting that almost all the earlier Thetford ware pottery has come from excavations nearer to the harbour.

An impressively deep test pit!

An impressively deep Test Pit 10!

Equally impressive skills were seen at Test Pit 12, where our other young archaeologist proved eagle-eyed at spotting finds. Test Pit 12 is the penultimate test pit in the line between Trenches 2 and 3 and again showed that archaeological deposits get deeper going north, nearer to St. James’s Street. However, plastic was unfortunately found at a depth of 80cm, just above the natural sand; meaning that the layer can only be as old as the plastic and that the medieval pottery found in within it has moved around a lot.

Keen seiving and finds spotting at Test Pit 12

Keen seiving and finds spotting at Test Pit 12

As all Time Team fans will be well aware off, exciting things have a habit of appearing at the last minute and Test Pit 13 did just that. The last test pit in the line, nearest to Trench 3, was opened this morning by some of our now well experienced volunteers, who admirably rose to the challenge of digging, recording and backfilling a test pit before the end of the day. Excitingly, Test Pit 13 revealed that the gradually sloping yellow sand of the underlying natural geology suddenly drops away and the depth of archaeological deposits on top, containing evidence of human activity, increases massively.

Sarah in lucky Test Pit 13

Sarah in lucky Test Pit 13

This may not immediate sound exciting, but bear with us as we promise it is an important discovery! Trenches 2 and 3 are on a slight hill, so the natural geology slopes down from 2 to 3. At some point early on in Dunwich’s history, possibly soon after or even before the Norman Conquest of 1066, people decided to cut into the sand of the slope to make a flat terrace for building on – two of these building floors were found in Trench 3. (If you picture a sponge cake with thin chocolate icing, where someone has taken a piece out of the edge and filled it back in with icing, that’s what the slope looks like if the cake is the natural and icing the archaeology.) As we can see the natural dropping down in Test Pit 13 where it has been cut away, we can be fairly sure that the whole area between Test Pit 13 and the far end of Trench 3 was terraced and contains deep layers of archaeology, including the remains of medieval buildings, probably houses or workshops. These buildings would have run along a street, along as one of the floors is underneath the currently visible hollow-way, the road must have been further to the north than the present hollow-way.

Moving from bad food analogies to actual food, Bill once again provided us with tea break sustenance, this time in the form of scones – all the more appreciated given the amount of backfilling that was going on. Amazingly, by 3 o’clock every last bit of soil had been shifted to fill back in all of our four trenches and nine test pits (fuelled in no small part by scones and the promise of the pub, should we finish early). In the Reading Room base, behind Dunwich Museum, the finds washing team had also been spectacular and managed to wash virtually all every last find, and with such a wonderful team of volunteers all of the equipment was soon packed carefully into the van and the Reading Room cleaned.

Finishing the mammouth task of backfilling Trench 4

Finishing the mammouth task of backfilling Trench 4

Over the last 9 days, the Dunwich Dig has not only shown that the archaeology here holds so much more potential for telling us more about the settlement’s history that previously thought, but it has also allowed many people to get involved in archaeology and actively contribute to increasing our understanding of Dunwich. We could not have done the dig without our wonderful funders, Touching the Tide (including Bill’s amazing cakes) and all of our enthusiastic and generally all-round fantastic volunteers, who have been an inspiration to work with! A huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in some way or visited the dig – hopefully this may not be the end of our time in Dunwich.

Pub trip for Carenza's final dig summary

Pub trip for Carenza’s final dig summary

Posted by: archaccess | August 3, 2015

Dunwich Dig – Day 8

Day 8 of our Touching the Tide funded dig at Dunwich began with more glorious sunshine and some new faces, including several young volunteers.

Carrying on from where yesterday’s blog left off, John and his stalwart team now have a clearer understanding of the road extension, put in to explore the hollow-way and find road surface(s). As the archaeology seemingly implied the day before, the extension does indeed contain a medieval clay floor with several deposits underneath, including a potentially pre-Norman Conquest layer. This deposit sits on the natural and contained a high percentage of Thetford ware – a pottery type that was unhelpful made either side of 1066, although John (our resident pottery expert) believes that an earlier date is more likely in this case.

Thetford ware from Trench 3's extension

Thetford ware from Trench 3’s extension

All of this is very interesting, yet distinctly un-road like. It now seems that if St. James’s Street is a modern descendent of a medieval road, as suggested by the location of St. James’ Leper Hospital at its western end, then it did not continue along the line of the presently visible hollow-way, which must be post-medieval in date.

Down in the car park, Trench 4 volunteers managed the herculean effort of backfilling the western, watery half of the trench (slot A). Whilst vast quantities of soil were being shifted, digging continued in slot B. The pottery coming up from this deep slot may contain a greater proportion of Thetford ware, although before the wet black soil has been washed off them, all pottery identification is more speculative then certain.

Backfilling Trench 4 - Cat and Fran's herculean effort to shift mountains of soil!

Backfilling Trench 4 – Cat and Fran’s herculean effort to shift mountains of soil!

With Trenches 1 and 2 closed, everyone else spent today busily digging test pits. After a promising start yesterday, Test Pit 5 in the woods south of Greyfriars continued down for around a metre before hitting the natural geology and was filled with much medieval pottery. The lack of later finds suggests that this test pit along the Middlegate hollow-way contained undisturbed medieval deposits. Test Pit 5 was also joined by Test Pit 8, opened 30m further north and nearer to Greyfriars monastery; finds of less pottery and more roof tile in Test Pit 8 hint that changes in land use occurred in relation to Greyfriars and/ or a medieval road underneath the current hollow-way.

Jess's test pits south of Greyfriars

Jess’s test pits south of Greyfriars

Moving back within the town boundary, excellent progress was made on the series of test pits spaced at 10m intervals between Trenches 2 and 3. Started yesterday, Test Pits 6 and 7 nearest to Trench 2 also revealed relatively shallow topsoil above bright yellow natural sand. With an enthusiastic group of volunteers, including two keen future archaeologists, the next two test pits (9 and 11 – there is some logic behind the numbering system!) were opened up this morning and, due to speedy digging, Test Pit 12 was even started after lunch.

Test pit excitment with a keen future-archaeologist!

Test pit excitment with a keen future-archaeologist!

As predicted, the archaeological deposits became increasingly deeper as we moved towards Trench 3. Interestingly, a relatively high quantity of animal bone (mostly sheep-sized) came up from the bottom of Test Pit 11, along with a mixture of medieval and post-medieval pottery. Whilst still very disturbed and mixed up, it looks like the test pits are moving towards areas of occupation, as the animal bone and larger sherds of pottery in Test Pit 11 appear to have travelled around in the ground less than the heavily worn pottery found in Test Pits 6 and 7.

The final new venture of the day was Test Pit 10, dug in the back garden of one of the Coastguard Cottages due to a kind offer from the owner. The cottage sits on a rise near the present cliff edge to the south of the beach café, between Trenches 3 and 4, and is thought to be the location of The Hospital of the Holy Trinity (also known as Maison Dieu). Given that test pits are only a metre square, it is unsurprising that no structural remains of the hospital were found. Instead, Test Pit 10 did what test pits do best – provide an insight into the depth and date of deposits in a particular area. Continuing for circa 1m before reaching natural, the archaeological layers in Test Pit 10 went back to the early medieval period, with sherds of Thetford ware appearing in the bottom deposit. Along with the Thetford ware from Trenches 3 and 4, it seems that around the time of the Norman Conquest, the occupation of western Dunwich lay in the area closest to the harbour.

Map of all trench and test pit locations

Map of all trench and test pit locations

The archaeology of medieval Dunwich is beginning to reveal some of its story and it will be sad to leave tomorrow (although whether everyone will still feel the same after the mountains of backfilling that await us tomorrow remains to be seen… ). It’s always fantastic to be able to introduce more people to archaeology, but it was a particular privilege today to be the first dig that our two young volunteers have been on – if today is anything to go by, we may all be out of a job in a few years time!

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