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Prologue: Arizona's Wupatki NM, which I recently posted a diary on same (http://www.dailykos.com/...), but slipped fairly rapidly through the Recent Diary list, reminded me of a complimentary contrast, if you will, to living style and quarters. Thus the subject title of today's diary, on Bandelier. We'll be headed west out of Santa Fe and fairly close to a locale where more Ph.D's live and work than anywhere on the planet. Can you guess the name of this town? (Here's a hint: Its work force of scientific Mensa types was responsible for making the biggest and loudest and brightest explosion of all time, at a place called Trinity.) Anyway, this upcoming tour is about a unique geologic setting the Ancestral Puebloans found ideal for settlement, mainly by fashioning apartments in readymade caves. They also selected a region where wildlife was abundant, as well as year-round water coursing through their expansive settlement. If you love hiking, then you are sure to love Bandelier's stunning setting and this archeological repository of dwellings and ruins.

Location/Geography: New Mexico, in Sandoval, Los Alamos, and Santa Fe Counties. Nearest city: Los Alamos (and fairly close to Santa Fe). Area: 33,677 acres. Monument entrance elevation about 6,500 feet. Located in the Santa Fe National Forest.

Spotlight: Human habitation for over 10,001 years. Geology ideal for cave dwelling (tuff, from volcanic ash). Bandelier's heyday (occupation), from 1151 to 1351. The big adventure here is to climb to Alcove House high above the canyon floor by way of wooden ladders, then climb down into a reconstructed kiva built inside the cave (not for the unwary).

Snapshot: Bandelier's main attraction is Frijoles Canyon. Its setting features a number of pueblo homes, kivas and petroglyphs. Some of these Ancestral Puebloan dwellings are structures built on the canyon floor, while others are alcoves high in the canyon wall. These sizable openings, called cavates, were later enlarged by humans. This rugged and arid landscape maintained an indigenous population that lived along the streams in the canyons, and in some cases on mesa tops above them. The Rito de los Frijoles ("Bean Creek") in Frijoles Canyon runs nearly year-round, while most canyons have seasonal streams that dry up during parts of the year.

(Diary continues after the fold)

Having the advantage of a dependable water source is another reason why Bandelier was heavily populated through the centuries. The monument’s primary resources are cultural––archaeological and anthropological. The scenic canyon and mesa country also count, both melding into high country mountain vistas at the upper end of Bandelier’s periphery. Surrounded by the Santa Fe National Forest, the monument's elevations range from about 5,340 feet at the Rio Grande to 7,800 feet. The topography also follows from the monument’s lofty setting on top of the Pajarito Plateau, which is part of the nearby Jemez Mountains. Bounded on the west by the famed Valles Caldera and on the east by the White Rock Canyon of the Rio Grande, the ash flow that formed the plateau originated from a major eruption (the volcanic Jemez Mountains). The modern site, once a populated settlement of the Ancestors, and named after the Swiss anthropologist Adolph Bandelier who initially surveyed the ruins, was declared a national monument in 1916. As a note of interest, a large collection of structures at Bandelier were built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). These peerless and talented workers first constructed the largest assembly of structures in a national park area that has not been altered by new structures in the district.

Overview of the mega-sized Valles Caldera

Guided Tour Essentials: The telling facts and features about this national monument is Bandelier's human history story. Elevation, like geology, plays an important role regarding natural history and human inhabitation of a region. At Bandelier, both aspects were agreeable to the dwellers. From 5,340 feet at the Rio Grande to the south and 10,199 feet to the summit of Cerro Grande to the north, there is nearly 1-mile of elevation change in just under 12 miles. This gradient creates a unique and ideal diversity of habitats peculiar to northern New Mexico. Such diversity, along with an easy access to a dependable water source, helped support a fairly large population who lived there. Human presence in the area has also been dated to over 10,000 years, while permanent settlements have been dated to 1150. The Ancestral Puebloans, denoting the latest prehistoric dwellers who settled here, lived closer to the Rio Grande by 1550. Surprisingly, primal volcanic eruptions later favored human habitation due in part to the generous distribution of basalt and the much prized obsidian ("volcanic glass").

Cuts finer and sharper than a surgeon's scalpel!

Obsidian was also a popular trading commodity, along with other goods exchanged. Bandelier became part of a regional trade network that also included Mexico. When Spanish settlers arrived in the 1700s, the network expanded.

At this point, I think a photo tour of Bandelier will highlight why prehistoric people favored this region for thousands of years (captions below pictures will guide you along the way).

Frijoles Canyon overview
Pathway into Bandelier
First appearance of the cave dwellings
Nearby ruins (remains of roomblocks)
Overview of the ruins layout
Bandelier's Great Kiva
Close-up view of dwellings with vegas protruding from wall
Bottom-row cliff dwellings
So-called 'cavettes' facade
A seeming face in the rocks (animism?)
Primitive dwellings, yes, but very functional (maybe even upscale in those times!)
Some of the higher cavettes required entry by way of a ladder
In places, dwellers took advantage of stacked living quarters, in this case a 3-story tier of dwellings in a single complex.
Obviously, to reach the higher dwellings, a longer ladder was necessary.

Archeological Sites At Bandelier: Given the above timeline for human occupation, sites here at Bandelier date from the Pueblo III and IV Eras (respectively 1150-1350 and 1350-1400). These dates highlight industrious construction in Frijoles Canyon. Perhaps the last structures built anywhere in Frijoles Canyon occurred close to 1500, with a peak population census near this date or shortly thereafter. Cultural scientists surmise the century before the construction of the 400-room Tyuonyi Pueblo (in Frijole Canyon) Bandelier was characterized by intense change and migration in the Ancestors culture. The highest population density in Frijoles Canyon corresponds to a wide scale migration of these people away from the Four Corners region (possibly from the Mesa Verde community). It’s also thought that some groups relocated into the Rio Grande Valley, southeast of their former territories, who later returned and constructed Tyuonyi and nearby sites. However, the pueblo at Bandelier was abandoned by 1600. Again, the inhabitants relocated to sites near the Rio Grande River such as the Cochiti and San Ildefonso pueblos.

Tyuonyi ruins

Note: For an archeological timeline and overview, please read this diary that was posted previously:

http://www.dailykos.com/...

Geology: The geology of the Pajarito Plateau was influential for industrious people who inhabited this widespread and diverse landscape. From the cliffs of Frijoles Canyon, created from the ash of volcanic eruptions, to the fallen ash ("tuff") that enhanced construction of their homes, the materials used to make arrowheads, axe heads, and grinding tools comes from the basic geologic foundation of this region. The 12-mile-wide Valles Caldera is the mother load source. Today, this gaping caldera is a major impression stamped on the landscape, with Bandelier’s turf located on the outer slope of the caldera’s massive depression. The Valles Caldera National Preserve adjoins the monument on the north and east, and extends into the Jemez Mountains.
The geologic formation is ideal for creating caves, small and large, all of which stems from regional primal volcanic activity.

Bonus Details: The caldera, which is a cauldron-like volcanic feature (and therefore not a true volcanic crater), was formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption that rained ash and cinders over a 1,500 square miles. After the volcano emptied its magma chamber some 1.1 million years ago, a gaping, circular depression remained. During the ancient eruption ash flowed up to 1,000 feet thick across the landscape from the caldera rim to the Rio Grande. As the hot ash cooled, it welded into a rock called tuff (or "tufa"), consisting of volcanic ash ejected from vents during the eruption. Geologists label this rock Bandelier tuff. Bandelier is also replete with this source material, which covers shales, sandstones and limestone deposited during the Permian and Pennsylvania period's (both Paleozoic Era formations). The volcanic outflow varies in hardness. The firmer materials were used by the Ancestral Puebloans as bricks, while the softer material was carved into alcove dwellings, much like small apartments overlooking the canyon floor.

The 13.6-mile-wide Valles caldera was formed as a result of two large volume eruptions that created the widespread Bandelier Tuff ignimbrite plateaus on all sides,

Flora And Fauna: Because of the substantial elevation gradient, wildlife is as locally abundant as it is manifold. For instance, deer, elk, black bear, foxes, mountain lions, coyote, bobcat and wild turkeys comprise the major and larger mammal and avian species found in this region. Ravens, raptors, reptiles, bats, tarantulas and the handsome tufted-eared Abert squirrel also call this territory home. Most stay in the backcountry but they sometimes wander into the monument. Fortunate it is for those who see these elusive creatures. Of course, we've all seen most of the above mentioned critters, but there is one among them I would like to share with you, as a photo, because for a change here is one squirrel species that does not fit the common disparaging name, rat-with-a-tail. Namely, the Abert squirrel (and cousin to the Grand Canyon South Rim's Kaibab squirrel:

The cutest tufted-eared squirrel of them all!

Trails: Hiking in Bandelier is highly recommended. Trails lead both upstream and downstream from the visitor center and main loop trail. Downstream, the primary trail climbs a short distance above the canyon bottom (hot and exposed during summer). The pathway leads to Upper and Lower Frijoles Falls.

Both falls are found where the Rito de los Frijoles, cascading over resistant basalt cliffs interbedded with the prevailing tuff. They are best viewed during the spring since the runoff is greater at that time. In the fall and winter, however, the falls may be nearly dry, a mere sprinkle compared to earlier in the year. One may turn around at either of the falls or continue downstream to the Rio Grande. There are inspiring views along the way. The total roundtrip distance is about 7 miles.

Other popular trails include the 1.2-mile Main Loop Trail leading to the shelter cave, Alcove House. There's a reconstructed kiva in this ruin and entered by a sturdy ladder.

It's a long way up there and there's a long ladder (in series) to make the climb. There's no other way to go about getting up that high. Think what Alcove House's dwellers thought about making this climb everyday!

There's even a forewarning sign about this popular dwelling:

The sign also promises what it says!

The incentive, other than the view and the courage getting up there is this reconstructed kiva:

There's even a ladder into its interior:

Previously called the Ceremonial Cave, the alcove (it should be apparent from the photos) is not a destination for the faint hearted since this archeological site for some visitors is 140 feet above the floor of Frijoles Canyon. The site served the needs of some 25 inhabitants. Except in winter, the remains of this dwelling are reached by four wooden ladders and stone stairs carved into the face of the rock. Views of viga (pronounced "vee-ga") holes, where heavy wooden beams once supported the roof, as well as niches of other dwellings, can be seen from Alcove House.

The trail leading to this ruin also loops through other archeological areas (Big Kiva, Tyuonyi, Talus House and Long House). Another archaeological site of interest is the aforementioned Tyuonyi (pronounced "Que-weh-nee"). Its construction typifies a circular pueblo site that once stood  one to three stories tall. Long House is next to Tyuonyi, built along and supported by the walls of the canyon. A reconstructed pueblo, Talus House, is also on the Main Loop Trail. There are some optional ladders that allow access to the smaller human-carved alcoves.

Talus House along the pathway (and no ladder even necessary, though it is closed to the public).)

The Frey Trail is also popular with hikers (1.5 miles each way), having an elevation change of 550 feet. From this sector, the Falls Trail starts at the east end of the so-called Backpacker Parking Lot. Descending 701 feet over 2.5 miles, this route leads to, and passes, the Upper and Lower Waterfalls, eventually ending at the Rio Grande. The last half mile of the path follows close to the creek before its confluence with the river. Here the main channel water flows slowly through a picturesque V-shaped canyon. The vegetation is sparse and the rock walls are a varied color, quite barren in appearance, giving a feeling of remoteness. The atmosphere is equally haunting, as in nostalgic. It’s easy to imagine the ancestral peope of long ago who frequently came here. The trail doesn’t stop here, however. A rough outline of a path follows the river south through White Rock Canyon, leading to Cochiti Lake. Be forewarned: the hike is about 14 miles and is best considered for fit backpackers.

White Rock Canyon topo

Bonus Details: Along with the elevation change, the Falls Trail challenges include steep drop-offs at many places along its pathway. There's also a lack of bridges over Frijoles Creek. The 2.5 miles Frijolito Loop Trail is even more strenuous and climbs out of Frijoles Canyon using a switchback path. Once on top of the mesa, this route passes Frijolito Pueblo. The trail then returns to the visitor center along the Long Trail. A detached portion of the monument, called the Tsankawi unit, is near Atomic City, otherwise known as Los Alamos. Excavated sites and petroglyphs await hikers who venture here, including the early-20th Century remains of a home and school for indigenous people.

Parting shots:

Directions: From Santa Fe, St. Francis Drive (Hwy. 84/285) north toward Los Alamos, then right onto NM 502 (toward Los Alamos), then turn right and exit onto NW 4 toward White Rock. Continue 12 miles), passing White Rock to the monument entrance (on the left).

Contact Information: Superintendent, Bandelier National Monument, 15 Entrance Road, Los Alamos NM 87544. Phone (Visitor Center): 505-672-3861, ext. 517. Fax 672.9607. Email embedded in NPS site’s URL (click on “Email Us”)

And so, DKos community, we come to the end of another trail, another armchair tour. There will be other scenic places to tour and more supplemental topics to read and think about, so stay tuned for a continuation in this series.

As always, your thoughtful commentaries are welcomed.
Rich
http://www.nmstarg.com/....
http://www.grandcanyon.org/....

FYI: For a list of all diaries posted to date, please see the growing inventory by clicking on my profile or by dialing in this URL: http://www.dailykos.com/....

Note: If commenting on an older diary, please send an email to my profile account and I am sure to respond in a timely manner. Although all the diary material is extrapolated from a larger copyrighted main source (my own works-in-progress) feel free to “liberate” given anything that I have posted thus far. That being said, kindly site the original source. Gracias.

About The Photographs: Unless otherwise indicated, all photos posted in my diary series are “Fair Use” and strictly educational in purpose and intent. See “Attributed” slot for photo identity source (usually Creative Commons non-commercial use only and Public Domain sources).

Originally posted to richholtzin on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 03:23 PM PDT.

Also republished by Pink Clubhouse and National Parks and Wildlife Refuges.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Que marvellioso! Thank you, richholtzin (12+ / 0-)

    for bringing us this diary. Have you gone to the Trinity site? I was there in October (they open it the first Saturday of October and of April) last year. It's a mind-expanding thing.

    If you get to go back, detour via Espanola and take the road past Frank Rand BSA camp to the ranch site, and visit Rancho de Chimayo ... and the village, too, if you can. They're both wonderful places, and the food at the rancho is simply unbelievable.

    LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 03:51:52 PM PDT

    •  yep, been there. . .done that. . . (6+ / 0-)

      and will do it again some day (when I quit scratching a poor fanny for lack of income. . .ha!). I've lived in New Mexico for many years and have been around the town, as it were. I see you have, too. Thanks for the directions, though; never had that route before. Now I do and I'll pass it along to othes. And the food at the Rancho de is still excellent. A nice drive, wonderful scenery and geology, and all things 'northern New Mexico" (and there is a huge difference between the south and the north (though not in that classic Yankee-Red demarcation). Glad you liked the diary and I hope you'll continue enjoying them because I have lots more to offer (that is, until the community says "enough is enough. . .get a job and earn some food money, Rich!"

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 04:06:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  you thought about self-publishing a travel-guide (4+ / 0-)

        or two, via Amazon or some similar utility? You might make a little eating money ...

        LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:27:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  already in the works. . . (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, BlackSheep1, RiveroftheWest

          there are many tomes, the larger ones, some of which I extrapolate somewhat downsized reading material for our audience-community, that will be circulated in such a way. Right now I am having too much fun writing these diaries to even bother. Eventually, I have to commit to some publishing interests out there. But not now. I decided I lucked out finding this niche market in our community and it relaxes me to feign the educator's role once more. . .but not wear the hell out of my knees doing it (and therefore stave off the VA's idea of rebuilding my knees after too many miles schlepping the trails with a heavy backpack. Then again, that's what I did for a profession for many years and got to see some mighty fine places, all of which comes down to direct source material and experiences writing these diaries. So, thanks for the suggestion, BlackSheep1. I'm on it. Just not now. As I said, composing these diaries is my strange way of enjoyment, while sharing, these days.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:41:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful series of diaries (8+ / 0-)

    Thank You

    It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision. ~ Helen Keller

    by Pam from Calif on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 03:57:32 PM PDT

    •  I'm glad you're following along. . . (6+ / 0-)

      Pam from Calif. I have new subject matter coming up, back to state parks and such, and more hiking, and then other stuff. Trouble with my mind is it tends to reach out and grab all sorts of subjects and themes, which somehow ends up in these diary-missives. Thanks for posting your comment. Hope you'll visit Bandelier some day because it is very special as are the Puuebloan villages in that part of the state.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 04:08:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for taking me along (8+ / 0-)

    to places I've long wanted to see, Rich. I don't think I'll be getting there in person, but the armchair experience has been truly wonderful!

  •  The climb up the ladders (8+ / 0-)

    was an interesting experience. Well worth the trip. It's been a lot of years since I was there, but would like to get back.

  •  beautiful (4+ / 0-)

    When I lived in Santa Fe more than thirty years ago we used to visit Bandelier several times a year. I only climbed up to the Alcove on one occasion however.

    One time I was picnicking there with my mom and first husband, and a deer wandered up to us -- within a few yards. It stood there regarding us for a few seconds, then, unconcernedly, wandered off again.

    "I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more." - Popeye the Sailor Man

    by congenitalefty on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 05:18:14 PM PDT

    •  and deer in NP's and NM's... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, KenBee

      tend to do that all the time. They know no one can harm them and it's instinctual for them to be in people-friendly places. Maybe they even love the ambience of a setting. Living in Santa Fe 30 years ago. . .that must have been a slice of heaven; a time when New Mexico was indeed the Land of Enchantment. Thanks for posting your comment, congenitalefty.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:44:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bandelier (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    foresterbob, RiveroftheWest, elfling

    This diary particularly reminds me that there are so many places with which I am not familiar. What is worse, is that I have been in the general vicinity of this Monument and did not know about it. That is true of several of the places you have highlighted. The Southwest is truly an incredible place and why have we all not spent more time going there? Hopefully, it is not too late! Thank you for showing us this really bizarre and beautiful place.

    •  nice way of putting it. . . (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling

      bizarre and beautiful place. I like that. As for sharing some places, like this, to you and others, and you not getting to see them the first time around, well, I can 'splain that: I got paid to tour and lead the tour. HA! Otherwise, who knows. . .I might have missed 'em, too. But in truth, I looked at maps, saw something interested, then wanted to go see and learn for myself. That's how I started around 1970. Been moving along ever since. Now you and the others know why I don't have spare change, much greenbacks. Spent it all. Thanks, as always for posting a comment, wynative. Wait 'til you see where we're all going over the weekend!

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:42:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the tour. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, greengemini, KenBee

    I've been to Bandelier once, and it was a long time ago, in the early 1980s. Typical of me, I was traveling with no set schedule, and I discovered it by scanning my road map for interesting places with campgrounds. It was a good choice!

    Those ladders didn't bother me at all. I don't do mountain climbing, but a sturdy ladder is fine. Even a tall ladder. There was plenty to see and learn, and I was there after Labor Day when it was not crowded.

    Nice to see all of the pictures, because my camera was malfunctioning at the time and I didn't get any good images. In those days, you could ruin whole rolls of film and not know it until you paid good money to develop the film. We're spoiled by digital images, aren't we?

    Keep the tours coming!

    •  they'll be a-coming. . . (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, KenBee, foresterbob

      foresterbob, thanks to supportive community members, like you. As for the film and malfunctioning. . .at the risk of appearing quite foolish, I once shot scenes in Columbia and Venezuela and was amazed how many pictures I got. Not! Here the damn film broke in the camera, and as I cranked the next one, I felt there was film to shoot and keep on shooting. NOT! Lost every one of 'em. It was then that I paid more attention to the counter. Oh the joys of foolish youth. Anyway, I climb, but not ladders. I'm good on exposure, cliffs and such; but not ladders. Call me silly. I've been called worse in my time. Thanks for the comment and I'm glad you got to see Bandelier up close and personal like. I, myself, could have easily lived in one of those cavettes. And what a view on the top floor, besides.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 06:39:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Been there! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest

    Twice. In the 90s.

    Thanks for bringing back good memories.

    Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat whose going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

    by Words In Action on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:36:26 PM PDT

    •  and you're welcomed. . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, Words In Action

      where would be without our memories. . .or experiences in life? Bandelier, I think, is worth a second or third or fourth visit. It's just that kind of place. Thanks for posting your comments, Words in Action.

      Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

      by richholtzin on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 07:38:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're welcome, rh. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest

        I agree, Bandelier is a special place. And it's close to a lot of other special places.

        I had the good fortune to go out to that area (had business dealings in Santa Fe) 6-7 times in the mid- and late 90s. Spent a lot of time in Albuquerque, SFe, drove the turquoise highway several times, visited Taos, Bandelier, the  Los Alamos a couple times each, the Santa Clara pueblo... I was also traveling to NYC, Chicago, SF and LA/Hollywood and San Diego a lot -- did a lot of California desert trekking. That was the way to work. Hard work, hard play. Good times.

        Frankly, I'd rather take down Exxon or Goldman Sachs, the way we're taking down RushBeckistan, than elect another "better" Democrat whose going to wind up singing for the bankster choir.

        by Words In Action on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 06:54:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  and on top of all that. . . (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Words In Action, RiveroftheWest

          a parody to a Beach Boy song. . ."round, round, get around, I get around" and you even got paid to do it (like me given my other kind of foot travel). Good on you for having so much time to see the great places far from the madding crowd. Now we're all waiting for your diary given your travels. Meanwhile, I will one of these days post a diary on the Santa Clara Pueblo, since they have closest kinship to the dwellers, at Bandelier. Thanks for posting your followup commentary.

          Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

          by richholtzin on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 08:18:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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