Prologue :
   
 

"Starting from the sea one comes first to Hylaea - the Woodland -
to the northward of which are Scythians who get their living from the land
and are known to the Greeks on the river Hypanis as Borysthenites.
They call themselves Olbiopolites.
These Scythians extend eastward as far as a river named the Panticapes -
the distance of a three days' journey - and northward as far up the Borysthenes
as a boat can sail in eleven days.
Further north is a great tract of uninhabited desert,
beyond which live the Androphagi - the Maneaters -
who have no connection with the Scythians but are a quite distinct race.
Northward again, so far as we can tell, there is utter desert without trace of human life.
Eastward of the Scythians who lived off the land, and on the other side of the Panticapes,
are the nomadic Scythians, who know nothing of agriculture.
All this region with the exception of Hylaea is treeless.
The nomadic tribes are to be found over a stretch of country extending
eastward fourteen days' journey as far as the river Gerrhus,
on the further side of which lies what is called the country of the Kings,
and the Royal Scythians, who are the most warlike and numerous section of their race,
and look upon the others as their slaves. Their territory runs south
as far as Taurica and east to the trench which was dug by the sons of the blind slaves,
and to Cremni, the trading post on the shore of the Maeotic Lake.
Part of it reaches as far as the river Tanais.
North of the Royal Scythians is a non-Scythian race
called Melanchlaeni, or Black-Cloaks, and north of them, so far as one knows,
is a region of lakes and uninhabited country. "
The Histories, Book Four,
Herodotus, Trans. Aubrey De Sélincourt

Nomadic Scythians :
     Sketchpad  \Horseman \Ancient steppe Artists \ Lost wax| updated 03/03/03
scythians on horseback
  " Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered, those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the Wise win before they fight, while the ignorant fight to win. "

 -- The art of War
孫子 --Sun Tzu

Artwork Details :
     Artists Description and comments relating to characters and concepts.

Client : Personal folio piece.
Medium : Pencil Sketch (on Cartridge) 20cm by 26cm :
Browned off for that "aged look" in Adobe Photoshop 2005 a.d

Design notes : This sketch started as a study of equine anatomy.
Soundtrack (
music to draw to) : Hans Zimmer - King Arthur (Film Score)

Additional Notes on the Scythians (This is a work in progress ) :
In Antiquity (8th century BC to the 2nd century AD), Scythia (Greek Σκυθία Skuthia) was the name for vast almost cresent-shaped Steppe which stretches from the confines of China to the banks of the Danube.Moving from east to west some of the defining geographical features are the nan Shan and Tien Shan ranges, the oxus river, the iranian plateau then the Caucasian mountains, the Black sea, the Carpathians and the river Danube. In earlier prehistoric times numerous tribes succeeded each other across this enormous plain. Pre-historians sometimes stumble across a few nebulous facts from those ancient, long forgotten, unrecorded years.
Dating the earliest Scythians has been problematic as they did not develop their distinctive art style until the 6th century B.C. A. I. Melyukova suggested that the early Scythians were descendants of tribes of the Srubnaya culture who, between the middle of the 2nd millenium B.C. and the end of the 7th century B.C., moved in several waves from the Volga-Ural steppes into the north Black Sea area and assimilated the local Cimmerians. The Scythians belonged to a panoptic cultural grouping that dominated the Eurasian steppe zone between the eighth and the first centuries BC labeled by some as the Scytho-Siberians, this group included semi-nomadic peoples who's domains extended from the borderes of Greece and Persia to the borders of Zhou China. The Scythians were the western-most of these peoples, inhabiting the Crimea, the steppe and forest-steppe to the north of the Black Sea, and the Kuban river basin. To their northeast lived the Sauromations in the Ural-Volga region. The Massagetae were recorded in the area of the Amu-Dar'ya (Oxus River) and Arl Sea, while the Sakas inhabited the steppe and moutain-steppe region of present day East Kazakhstan. The area of present day Altay Respublika was home to the early nomads or Pazyryk culture; to the north in the Minusinsk Basin, lived the people of the Tagar culture. Present day Tuva was the centre of the Aldi-Bel and Saglin cultures, while northern and central Mongolia are identified with the Chandman Culture. More than any of these groups the Scythians have been documented in ancient writings. Their presence in West Asia was noted in the Assyrian chronicles.
The Scythian presence in Greek cities around the northern region of the Black Sea is also extensively attested to in stone inscriptions, stamped on coins, and in the writing of many observers following Herodotus. Even more indicitive of a Scythian realiy are the hundreds of burials and settlements that have been excavated in the steppe and forest-steppe zones.

Many ancient greek scholars considered the Scythians to be the oldest of races but for the Egyptians. Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus, a 1st century BC Roman historian of the Celtic tribe of the Vocontii in Gallia Narbonensis, attested as much. " Scytharum gens antiquissima semper habita, quamquam inter Scythas et Aegyptios diu contentio de generis uetustate fuerit " the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.

Scythians were famous for their bloody tribal customs. Warriors would decollate slain enemies then continue on to make leather-bound drinking cups from the skulls (as would the celts later in history). They lined these macabre trophies with gold and proudly displayed them to impress their guests. The ancient Greeks' impression of Scythia was that of a matriarchy, though not supported by the interpretation of archaeological evidence ( but as the oft quoted phrase goes 'absence of evidence...'also the greeks were contemporaneous not 'academics with shovels and a 2000 year age gape'). A wealthy Scythian could take several wives, and upon his death a son or a brother would assume them as his own. Scythian women had little power beyond the confines of their households, unlike their neighboring tribe the Sarmatians, whose women not only rode but fought with the men equally. Scythian women travelled in waggons with their children instead. Some scholars suggest that the women may have lived a more active and influential life at one time.

The acts and art of war was common ground for both sexes, the Scythian women are said to have performed equally with the men. Scythian women were tattooed like their mates, and the ancient historian Diordorus commented that Scythian women 'fight like the men and are nowise inferior to them in bravery'. It has been recorded that Scythian women had to kill three enemies in battle before marrying, and that a mastectomy of the right breast was performed on females to prevent it interfereing with their archery skills.

Enaries :
Cannabis was not only used by the Scythians for relaxation and ceremonies for the dead. They had a class of shaman-magicians called the Enaries. These were ancient transvestites who uttered prophecies in high pitched voices. (actually a very common trait among shamans world wide). The Scythians believed that these people, who had characteristics of both sexes, were somehow also living in both worlds, and could travel between the two. Some of the ancient shamans are refered to as "those who walk in smoke" or Kapnobatai by Eliade. The Kapnobatai would be dancers and Shamans who used the smoke of hemp to bring ecstatic trances.

this date is not right-1500 B.C.??? Scythians cultivate cannabis (Cannabis is being a Scythian term probably derives from a Semitic origin) and use it to weave fine hemp cloth. (Sumach 1975)
700-300 B.C. (the iron age) Scythian tribes leave Cannabis seeds as offerings in royal tombs. Scytho-Sarmatian style reflected in art of the migration period in central europe and gaul. I t also influences the Viking art of Scandinavia.
500 B.C. Scythian couple die and are buried with two small tents covering censers. Attached to one tent stick was a decorated leather pouch containing wild Cannabis seeds. This closely matches the stories told by Herodotus. The gravesite, discovered in the late 1940s, was in Pazryk, northwest of the Tien Shan Mountains in modern-day Khazakstan.
500 B.C. Hemp is introduced into Northern Europe by the Scythians. An urn containing leaves and seeds of the Cannabis plant, unearthed near Berlin, is dated to about this time.

300-200 B.C
Fleeing Goths spread Scytho-sarmatian style through central and southern europe.

scythian gold belt buckleOne thing that Herodotus failed to report about these Scythian warriors is that they produced art of stunning force and vitality. Around the 6th century B.C., the Scythian created an art of pattern and ornament with naturalistic motifs based on animals. The favorite animals of the Scythian style are the stag, the horse, the ibex, the boar, the bear, the wolf, the felines, the eagle and the fish. The Scythian animal art style was adopted by all the mounted nomads as far as the borders of China by the end of the first millennium BC. During last two centuries, many rich and extraordinary finds were excavated from Scythian tombs and graves such as Pazyryk site in the Altai mountain of south-central Siberia, Kul Oba in the Kuban basin of the northern Black Sea.

Herodotus :

Herodotus of Halicarnassus devoted large sections of his Histories to a description of the lands of the Scythians, their traditions and mores. Herodotus hands us the first detailed and fascinating description of the Scythians through book 4 of his histories. He classes the Cimmerians as a distinct autochthonous tribe, expelled by the Scythians from the northern Black Sea coast (Hist. 4.11-12). Herodotus also states (4.6) that the Scythians consisted of the Auchatae, Catiaroi, Traspians and Paralatae or "Royal Scythians". Throughout his work Herodotus specifically distinguished between the nomadic Scythians in the south and the agricultural Scythians to the north.

681- 668 BC the Assyrian king Assarhaddon defeated the 'Gimmerai' (Cimmerians, the biblical 'Gomer") under their king Teushpa; around 674 BC, the king of the 'As-ku za' (or ishkuza-Scythians), Bartatua, married a Assyrian princess and, some thirty or forty years later, these same people destroyed the kingdom of Urartu in eastern Anatolia and took control of the kingdom of Media in northern Iran-possibly in alliance with the Assyrians. Around 610 BC, the nomads, then in alliance with Medes, conquered the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, but afterwards the Medes expelled them back north of the Caucasus; the Medes were then brought under the hegemony of Achaemenid Persia. From around 520 BC, the 'Saka tigrakhauda'('pointed-hat Scythians' in Persian) became an increasing threat to the new empire.

512 BC king Darius the Great of Persia attacked the Scythians, he allegedly penetrated into their land after crossing the Danube. Herodotus relates that the nomad Scythians succeeded in frustrating the designs of the Persian army by letting it march through the entire country without an engagement. According to Herodotus, Darius in this manner came as far as the Volga river.

During the 5th to 3rd centuries BC the Scythians evidently prospered. When Herodotus wrote his Histories in the 5th century BC, Greeks distinguished Scythia Minor in present-day Romania and Bulgaria from a Greater Scythia that extended eastwards for a twenty-day ride from the Danube River, across the steppes of today's Ukraine to the lower Don basin. The Don, then known as Tanaïs, has served as a major trading route ever since. The Scythians apparently obtained their wealth from their control over the slave-trade from the north to Greece through the Greek Black Sea colonial ports of Olvia, Chersonesos, Cimmerian Bosporus, and Gorgippia. They also grew grain, and shipped wheat, flocks, and cheese to Greece.

Strabo (c. 63 BC - 24 AD) reports that king Ateas united under his power the Scythian tribes living between the Maeotian marshes and the Danube. His westward expansion brought him in conflict with Philip II of Macedon (reigned 359 to 336 BC), who took military action against the Scythians in 339 BC. Ateas died in battle and his empire disintegrated. In the aftermath of this defeat, the Celts seem to have displaced the Scythians from the Balkans, while in south Russia a kindred tribe, the Sarmatians, gradually overwhelmed them.

By the time of Strabo's account (the first decades of the first millennium AD), the Crimean Scythians had created a new kingdom extending from the lower Dnieper to the Crimea. The kings Skilurus and Palakus waged wars with Mithridates the Great (reigned 120–63 BC) for control of the Crimean littoral, including Chersonesos and the Cimmerian Bosporus. Their capital city, Scythian Neapolis, stood on the outskirts of modern Simferopol. The Goths destroyed it much later, in the 5th century AD.

In the 2nd century BC, a group of Scythian tribes, known as the Indo-Scythians, migrated into Bactria, Sogdiana and Arachosia. The migrations in 175-125 BC of the Kushan (Chinese "Yuezhi") tribes, who originally lived in modern Gansu before the Huns (Chinese "Xiongnu") tribes dislodged them, displaced the Indo-Scythians from Central Asia. Led by their king Maues, they ultimately settled in modern-day Pakistan and Kashmir from around 85 BC, where they replaced the kingdom of the Indo-Greeks by the time of Azes II (reigned circa 35 - 12 BC). Kushans invaded again in the 1st century, but the Indo-Scythian rule persisted in some areas of Central India until the 5th century.

Hellenic-Scythian contact still focused on the Hellenistic cities and settlements of the Crimea (especially in the Bosporan Kingdom). Greek craftsmen from the colonies north of the Black Sea made spectacular Scythian-style gold ornaments (see below), applying Greek realism to depict Scythian motifs of lions, antlered reindeer and gryphons.

Weapons :
Scythians used a double-curved bow, shooting over the horse's left shoulder; arrows had trefoil-shaped heads made, according to date, of bronze, iron, or bone. Arrows and bow were carried in a gorytos (bow case) slung from the left side of the belt.

Tattoos :

Scythians had full body tattoos with extremely intricate tribal designs, depicting both real and imaginary beasts as well as events from their mythology. Looking like the forerunners of modern-day Hell's Angels, the fierce appearance of the Scythian nomads had a formidably terrifying effect on the people whose lands they invaded.

Scythian Tattoo
scythian Shoulder Tattoo
These tattoos were revealed in 2003-2004 during an examination of Scythian mummies which are kept in the State Hermitage's Department of Archeology of Eastern Europe and Siberia. this mummy comes from the Altai, more specifically from the Pazyryk barrows, dating from the 5th-3rd centuries B.C. and were excavated by Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko during 1947-1948.

the Rise of the First Scythian Kingdom :
The first Scythian state arose among Scythians who penetrated in the seventh century BC from the territories north of the Black Sea into the Near East. It was dominated by inter-ethnic forms of dependency based on subjugation of agricultural population in eastern South Caucasia, plunder and levied contributions (occasionally, as far as Syria), regular tribute (Media), tribute disguised as gifts (Egypt), possibly also payments for military support (Assyria). The Scythian social structure was much decentralized. The main features of the Scythian social organization developed before the seventh century B.C..

It is likely that the same dynasty ruled in Scythia during most of its history. The name of Koloksai, a legendary founder of a royal dynasty, is mentioned by Alcman in the seventh century B.C. Prototi and Madi, Scythian kings in the Near Eastern period of their history, and their successors in the north Pontic steppes belonged to the same dynasty. Herodotus lists five generations of a royal clan that probably reigned at the end of the seventh to sixth centuries BC: prince Anacharsis, Saulius, Idanthyrsus, Gnurus, Lycus, and Spargapithes. (Herodotus IV, 76). Ateas, reigning in the fourth century B.C., probably was an usurper, but he also tried to connect his origin with the ancient dynasty.

After being defeated and driven from the Near East, in the first half of sixth century BC, Scythians had to re-conquer lands north of the Black Sea. In the second half of that century Scythians succeeded in dominating the agricultural tribes of the forest-steppe and to place them under tribute. As a result their state was reconstructed with the appearance of the Second Scythian Kingdom which reached its zenith in the fourth century BC.

the Rise of the Second Scythian Kingdom :
Scythia's social development at the end of the fifth and in the fourth century BC involved its privileged stratum into trade with Greeks, efforts to control this trade, and consequences partly stemming from these two: aggressive external policy, intensified exploitation of dependent population, progressing stratification among the nomadic rulers. Trading with Greeks also stimulated sedenterization processes. The elliptical propinquity of the greek city states of the Pontic Olbia, Cimmerian Bosporus, Chersonesos, Sindica, Tanais rimming the black sea during this time period became a potent inducement for a unidirectional slave trade within Scythian society toward the Hellenic culture, consequently, the market encouraged the capture of slaves as lucrative spoils of war.

Isocrates (436–338 BC, Panegyricus 67) believed that Scythians, along with the Thracians and Persians:
" The most able to power, and are the peoples with the greatest might. "

Written sources tell of the expansion of Scythia before the fourth century BC as primarily taking a westerly route. The Scythian border expansion reached its apex during the fourth century BC during the reign of King Ateas. Under his sovereignty the tribune structure of the state was eliminated, and the ruling power became more centralized. The later sources do not mention three basileuses any more. Strabo tells (VII, 3, 18) that Ateus ruled over majority of the North Pontic barbarians. Ateas fought the Triballi --a wild and warlike people-- (Polyaenus, Stratagems VII, 44, 1).

"a true legend of history Ateas died in battle against Philip of Macedon in 344 BC/339 BC at ninety years of age (Trogus, Prologue, IX)"

The Scythians subjugated a section of Thrace (Bulgarian: Тракия, Trakiya,"Trakija" or Trakia, Greek: Θράκη, Thráki, Turkish: Trakya) in book 7 of his Histories, Herodotus describes the Thracians fighting under the Persians,
"The Thracians went to the war wearing the skins of foxes upon their heads, and about their bodies tunics, over which was thrown a long cloak of many colours. Their legs and feet were clad in buskins made from the skins of fawns; and they had for arms javelins, with light targes, and short dirks."

The Scythians firmly settled in Thrace and became an important factor of political games in the Balkans. At the same time, both the nomadic and agricultural Scythian populations increased along the Dniester. A war with the Bosporian Kingdom increased Scythian pressure on the Greek cities along the North Pontic littoral.

Materials from the site near Kamianka-Dniprovska, purportedly the capital of the Ateas’ state, show that metallurgists were free members of the society, even if burdened with imposed obligations. The metallurgy was the most advanced and the only distinct craft speciality among the Scythians. From the story of Polyaenus and Frontin, it follows that in the fourth century BC Scythia had a layer of dependent population, which consisted of impoverished Scythian nomads and local indigenous agricultural tribes, socially deprived, dependent and exploited, who did not participate in the wars, but were engaged in servile agriculture and cattle husbandry.

Many royal kurgans (Chertomlyk, Kul-Oba, Aleksandropol, Krasnokut) are dated from after Ateas’ time and previous traditions were continued, and life in the settlements of Western Scythia show that the state survived until the 250s B.C. When in 331 BC Zopyrion, Alexander’s viceroy in Thrace, "not wishing to sit idle", invaded Scythia and besieged Pontic Olbia, he suffered a crushing defeat from the Scythians and lost his life (Justinian, XII, 1, 4).

The fall of the Second Scythian Kingdom came about in the second half of the third century BC under the onslaught of Celts and Thracians from the west and Sarmatians from the east. With their increased forces, the Sarmatians devastated significant parts of Scythia and, "annihilating the defeated, transformed a larger part of the country into a desert" (Diodorus, 11,43,7).

The dependent forest-steppe tribes, subjected to exaction burdens, freed themselves at the first opportunity. The Dnieper and Buh populace ruled by the Scythians did not become Scythians. They continued to live their original life which was alien to Scythian ways. From the third century BC for many centuries the histories of the steppe and forest-steppe zones of North Pontic diverged. The material culture of the populations quickly lost their common features. And in the steppe, reflecting the end of nomad hegemony in Scythian society, the royal kurgans were no longer built. Archeologically, late Scythia appears first of all as a conglomerate of fortified and non-fortified settlements with abutting agricultural zones.

The development of the Scythian society is marked by the following trends :
An intensified settlement process, evidenced by the appearance of numerous kurgan burials in the steppe zone of North Pontic, some of them dated to the end of the fifth century BC, but the majority belonging to the fourth or third centuries BC, reflecting the establishment of permanent pastoral coaching routes and a tendency to semi-nomadic pasturing. The Lower Dnieper area contained mostly unfortified settlements, while in Crimea and Western Scythia the agricultural population grew. The Dnieper settlements developed in what were previously nomadic winter villages, and in uninhabited lands.
Tendency for proprietary and social inequality, ideological ascend of the nobility, further stratification among free Scythian nomads. The majority of royal kurgans are dated from the fourth century BC.
In the fourth century BC in the Dnieper forest-steppe zone, steppe-type burials appear. In addition to the nomadic advance in the north in search of the new pastures, they show an increase of pressure on the farmers of the forest-steppe belt. The Borispol kurgans occupied almost exclusively by warriors both male and female. The bloom of steppe Scythia coincides with decline of forest-steppe. From the second half of the fifth century BC, importing of antique goods to the Middle Dnieper decreased because of pauperization of the dependent farmers. In the forest-steppe, kurgans of the fourth century BC are poorer than during previous times. At the same time, the cultural influence of the steppe nomads grew. The Senkov kurgans in the Kyiv area, left by the local agricultural population, are low and contain poor female and no-inventory male burials, in a striking contrast with the nearby Borispol kurgans of the same era left by the Scythian conquerors.

Growth of trade with Northern Black Sea Greek cities, and increase in Hellinization of the Scythian aristocracy. After the defeat of Athenes in the Peloponnesus war, Attican agriculture was ruined. Demosthenes wrote that about 400,000 medimns (63,000 t) of grain was exported annually from the Bosporus to the Athenes. The Scythian nomadic aristocracy not only served a middleman role, but also actively participated in the trade of grain produced by dependent farmers as well as slaves, skins and other goods.
Scythia's later history is mainly dominated by sedentary agrarian and city elements. As a result of the defeats suffered by Scythians two separate states were formed, two Lesser Scythias, one in Thrace (Dobrudja), and the other in the Crimea and the Lower Dnieper area (Strabo VII, 4, 5).

the Rise of the third Scythian Kingdom :
Having settled Scythia Minor or "Lesser Scythia" (Greek: Μικρά Σκυθία, Mikrá Skythia) , the former Scythian nomads (or rather their nobility) abandoned their nomadic way of life, retaining their dominion over the rural population. This little polity should be distinguished from the 3rd Scythian Kingdom in Crimea and Lower Dnieper area, whose inhabitants likewise underwent a massive sedentarization. The interethnic dependence was replaced by developing forms of dependence within the society. The enmity of the Third Scythian Kingdom, centred on Scythian Neapolis, towards the Greek settlements of the northern Black Sea steadily increased. The Scythian king apparently regarded the Greek colonies as unnecessary intermediaries in the wheat trade with mainland Greece. Besides, the settling cattlemen were attracted by the Greek agricultural belt in Southern Crimea. The later Scythia was both culturally and socio-economically far less advanced than its Greek neighbors such as Olvia or Chersonesos.

The continuity of the royal line is less clear in the Lesser Scythias of Crimea and Thrace than it had been previously. In the second century BC, Olvia became a Scythian dependency. That event was marked in the city by minting of coins bearing the name of the Scythian king Skilurus. He was a son of a king and a father of a king, but the relation of his dynasty with the former dynasty is not known. Either Skilurus or his son and successor Palakus were buried in the mausoleum of Scythian Neapol that was used from ca. 100 B.C. to ca. 100 AD. However, the last burials are so poor that they do not seem to be royal, indicating a change in the dynasty or royal burials in another place.

At the end of the second century BC, Olvia was freed from Scythian domination, but became a subject to Mithradates the Great. By the end of the first century BC, Olbia, rebuilt after its sack by the Getae, became a dependency of the Dacian barbarian kings -- Dacians were known as Geta (plural Getae) and Dacus (plural Daci) in Greek writings. Later from the second century AD Olbia was engulfed by the Roman Empire. Scythia was the first state north of the Black Sea to collapse with the invasion of the Goths in the 2nd century AD.

Personal Library :
Recommended Reading :
( links to Amazon.com if available)
The Art of the Scythians: The Interpretation of Cultures at the Edge of the Hellenic World (Handbook of Oriental Studies, Vol 2)(Hardcover) Esther Jacobson(-Tepfer) Leiden: E. J. Brill. 1995.
The Oxford Illustrated Prehistory of Europe(Hardcover) Oxford Barry Cunliffe (Editor) University Press, USA (May 12, 1994)
The Story of Archaeology: The 100 Great Archaeological Discoveries Paul G. Bahn (editor) Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group); New Ed edition (1997)
The Scythians(Ancient peoples and places. 2) (Hardcover) Tamara Talbot Rice: Thames & Hudson. 1957.
The History of Herodotus. Trans : George Rawlinson: (Hardcover) University of Chicago 1952.
Herodotus: The Histories John M. Marincola (Editor), Aubrey De Selincourt (Translator) Penguin Classics (September 1, 1996)
The Ancient Civilization of South Siberia (Hardcover) Mikhail Gryaznov : Barrie & Rockliff, London 1969.
The First Horsemen: The Emergence of Man (Hardcover) Frank Tippet : Time-Life Books 1974.
The World's Last Mysteries Reader's Digest Association (January 1978)

A History of Russia Nicholas V. Riasanovsky (Author) Oxford University Press, USA; 5 edition (March 11, 1993)
The Archaeology of Ancient Turkey (Bodley Head Archaeology)(Hardcover) James Mellaart (Author) (April 1978)
Russian history atlas (Hardcover) Martin Gilbert (Author) Weidenfeld & Nicolson (1972)
Additional Reading:
http://www.cannabisculture.com/backissues/cc02/scythians.html

Note to self : Do not lend books to people , they just don't return the good ones.

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