Apollonia Pontica Excavation Project

Period: Archaic Greek, Hellenistic and Early Byzantine
Code: AP.EXC 17
Session 1: 24 June - 8 July 2017
Session 2: 8 - 22 July 2017
Session 3: 24 June - 15 July 2017
Session 4: 24 June - 22 July 2017
Academic credits available: up to 12
Admission fee starting from: 1275 EUR (approx. 1424 USD)

The Project and the Course

General Information

 This project is included in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans  

Project type: field school (excavations). The variety of activities and the team's professionalism and flexibility make this project suitable for both beginners and advanced in either Field or Classical Archaeology. Individual program and task assignments are available to advanced students.   

The field school started: 2011

Site: Apollonia Pontica - sector of the the ancient city's sacred precinct (temenos) located on St. Kirik Island, Sozopol, Bulgarian Black Sea coast.   

Project venue: Sozopol, Bulgaria

Period(s) of occupation: Archaic and Classical Greek, Hellenistic and Early Byzantine (7th - 3rd century BC and 5th - 7th century AD)

The project partners: Balkan Heritage Foundation (BHF), Bulgaria and Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA, Apollonia Pontica Excavation Team, Archaeological Museum of Sozopol, New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria).

Dig director: Krastina Panayotova, PhD in Archaeology, Associated professor and Head of the Department of Classical Archaeology, National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Deputy dig director and chief instructorTeodora Bogdanova, Ph.D. in Archaeology, Curator at Museum of Archaeology - Sozopol; Adjunct Professor, CPCE, New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria

Field school coordinator: Nayden Prahov, PhD in Archaeology, Program Director of the Balkan Heritage Foundation and Expert Archaeologist at the National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Two-week session 1: 24 June - 8 July, 2017

Two-week session 2: 8 July - 22 July, 2017

Three-week session: 24 June - 15 July, 2017

Four-week session: 24 June - 22 July, 2017 

Major field school topics/activities: Ancient Greek Colonization, Culture and Religion; Аrchaeological Field Techniques and Methods; Find’s and Samples Processing, Documentation of Archaeological Pottery, Excursions to Significant Heritage Sites along the western Black Sea coast. For participants in the three-week session: Course on Conservation and Restoration of Ancient Greek Pottery; For participants in the four-week session: Processing of archaeological finds.

Major field school topics/activities: Ancient Greek Colonization, culture and religion; archaeological field techniques and methods; find’s and samples processing, documentation of archaeological pottery, excursions to significant heritage sites along the Western Black Sea Coast. For participants in the three and four-week session: course on conservation and restoration of Ancient Greek pottery;

Application Deadlines:

Until the places are filled, or 1 June, 2017

Minimum length of stay for volunteers: 1 session (two weeks)

Minimum age: 18

Number of field school places available: Maximum 35

Project language:English

Academic credits available: Students who study in Europe can receive up to 12 ECTS credits through New Bulgarian University, Bulgaria. Students who study outside Europe can obtain 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units) through IFR’s academic partner University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA - Extension). See more details below!

Experience required: No

Special requirements: The project is not recommended for individuals with solar allergies or other special illnesses that might be exacerbated during the intensive outdoor activities. The average summer temperatures in the area are 25-35° C (77- 95° F) or higher. All participants should bring clothes and toiletries suitable for hot and sunny weather. Bear in mind that chilly, windy and rainy days are not uncommon. Participants are expected to prepare for the dig by reading at least the BHFS handbook that will be sent by e-mail before the beginning of the project. Participants will use the tools and equipment available at the site and are not expected to bring any additional equipment.

If you are interested in an even more comprehensive experience with classical antiquity, check our project packs: ANCIENT GREEK PACK and the ANCIENT GREEK AND ROMAN PACK each combining 2 different Balkan Heritage Field School projects! You are also welcome to join the WORKSHOP FOR CONSERVATION, RESTORATION AND DOCUMENTATION OF ANCIENT GREEK POTTERY in Sozopol from 24 June to 8 July. 


The Site and the Excavation Project


Ancient Apollonia Pontica (present-day Sozopol, Bulgaria) is one of the oldest towns on the western Black Sea coast. The city, founded by Miletian colonists around 610 BC, was named Apollonia Pontica in honour of the patron deity of Miletus - Apollo. The Ancient authors identify the philosopher named Anaximander as the founder of the city. It became an autonomous and strong democratic polis and important trade center between Ancient Greece and Thrace. Thanks to its strong navy and naturally protected harbors, Apollonia kept control of the major merchant road along the Western Black Sea Coast, called Via Pontica, for several centuries. The city preserved its independence during the campaigns of Phillip II of Macedon (342-339 BC) and Alexander the Great (335 BC) but in 72 BC it was conquered, pillaged and burned by the Roman legions of Marcus Lucullus. The city succeeded in restoring its former glory and was known in the Roman World as Apollonia Magna (Great Apollonia). Following the Christian mainstream tradition, its name was changed to Sozopol, town of salvation, in the 4th century AD. Despite the damage, it survived the period of the Great Migration of People (4th - 7th century AD) and entered the Middle Ages as a focal point of long-lasting Byzantine-Bulgarian conflicts.

Despite being one of the largest and richest Ancient Greek colonies in the Black sea region, Apollonia Pontica was famous in Antiquity because of the colossal statue of Apollo made by the notorious Greek sculptor Calamis. According to Pliny the Elder (Pliny 34.29) and Strabo (Strabo, 7.319) the 13-meter high bronze sculpture cost 500 talents. It was raised in the 5th century BC in front of the temple dedicated to Apollo Iatros (the Healer) - patron deity of Apollonia Pontica. In 72 BC the Romans under Marcus Lucullus sacked the city and the colossal sculpture was taken to Rome as a trophy. It was exhibited for several centuries on the Capitoline Hill. During the Early Christian period it was lost - probably destroyed as many other pagan artifacts were.

Epigraphic sources mention that the temple of Apollo was situated on an island, identified by most of the scholars with St. Kirik Island - the closest one to the ancient city. However, until recently there was no archaeological evidence suggesting where the temple was situated. During the Balkan Heritage Field School excavations in 2013, a fragment of East Greek pottery with inscription - dedicated to Apollo was found, which is important evidence about the location of the temple. In 2014 the artifact was exhibited in the Louvre along with other precious artifacts representing the Bulgarian archaeological heritage.

The tiny island of St. Kirik is connected with the Old Town Quarter of Sozopol by a short and narrow breakwater (built in 1927). Its name originates from the medieval monastery dedicated to St. Cyricus and his mother St. Julitta that once existed there. The first archaeological survey on the island was conducted in 1904 by the French consul and scholar L. Degrand. The results from the excavations were never published and many artifacts from Archaic and Classical Greek period found there were transported to France and exhibited in the Louvre. For approximately 100 years after that the territory of St. Kirik Island was used as a military zone by the Bulgarian Ministry of Defence. In 2005 the island was demilitarized and in 2009 the Apollonia Pontica Excavation Team lead by Dr. Krastina Panayotova restarted the excavations. The archaeologists and the Balkan Heritage students have discovered there:

  • The earliest Greek settlement that existed here prior to the temenos (7th-6th century BC);
  • A Late Archaic temple complex: a temple and an altar (late 6th - early 5th century BC) - presumably belonging to the famous temple of Apollo;
  • An oval altar and a temple from the Hellenistic period (4th century BC);
  • An Ancient Greek tholos;
  • Several Ancient Greek bothroi (pit altars);
  • An Ancient Greek Copper Foundry;
  • Early Byzantine basilica and necropolis (5th - 7th century AD).

The great discovery convinced the Bulgarian Government to declare the island a cultural heritage site and designate some of the abandoned military buildings to be turned into a Museum of the Maritime Contacts and Civilizations.


The Field School

This field school provides a unique glimpse into the early stages of the Greek colonization of the western Black Sea coast and the development of a small Greek settlement to one of the richest and strongest Greek colonies in the Black Sea region, as well as an amazing opportunity to:
- dig at an ancient Greek site on the Black Sea coast;

- practice all basic excavation techniques in the field plus find’s and samples’ processing;

- visit significant archaeological and historic sites in Bulgaria as Nesebar, ancient Mesambria (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Sozopol, ancient Apollonia Pontica, etc.

The Field School Season 2017 envisions excavations at the top of the island, in the area of the Archaic and Classical Greek and Hellenistic temples, Ancient Greek copper foundry and the Early Christian basilica and necropolis, where the excavations have been taking place from 2012. The discoveries from the last seasons were quite exciting and included:

  • Two ritual pits (bothroi) from the Archaic period containing: elaborated aribaloi (small pottery containers for perfumes and makeup) shaped as: a bullhead, a ram, warrior heads, goddess Artemis; several alabastroi (pottery and alabaster containers for perfumes), bronze phialae, an iron sword, numerous pottery vessels, bones, etc;
  • Several Early Christian (5th-th century AD) graves;
  • A Hellenistic ritual fireplace with remains of a clay wreath;
  • Architectural structures from the Archaic Period;
  • Numerous finds, including: several lamps from Archaic and Roman period, numerous pottery shards from Archaic, Hellenistic, Roman and Late Roman period, fragments of marble decorative elements from Archaic and Hellenistic public buildings, coins, bone objects, etc.

Four field school sessions are available: two two-week sessions, one three-week session and one four-week session. Each includes fieldwork, lectures and instructions on classical and field archaeology, workshops for findings processing and documentation, excursions to significant archaeological and historical sites. The participants who join the three or four-week session will be able to develop further their field archaeology skills and competences and to attend more lectures, workshops and excursions (refer to the Course Program and Agenda below!).


Students who must prepare field reports and presentations for their universities can receive additional instruction and assistance.


All participants will receive:

  • Project handbook (in PDF, send by e-mail)
  • Balkan Heritage Field School Certificate specifying the topics and the hours of the field school activities (fieldwork, lectures, workshops, educational trips, etc.).         

The Program

Two-week field school sessions provide a minimum of 75 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours as follows:

        Field Work

  • Practicing basic excavation techniques;
  • Use of tools and working techniques;
  • Creating field documentation - field journal, context sheets and labels, ground plans and cross-sections, photographs, etc;
  • Identifying and sorting archaeological finds;


  • Archaeological Documentation of Pottery (drawing, graphic reconstruction, photographing, description, etc.).
  • Cleaning of pottery.


  • History of Apollonia Pontica in Antiquity (7th century BC - 6th century AD);
  • Technology, Typology and Chronology of Ancient Greek and Hellenistic pottery with examples from Apollonia Pontica;
  • The Island Saints Cyricus and Julitta during the Archaic Period;
  • Ancient Greek Cemeteries and Funeral Rites with Examples from the Western Black Sea Coast;
  • History and Archaeology of Sozopol;
  • History and Archaeology of Nessebar;
  • Stratigraphy and Chronology;
  • Dating Artifacts and Materials;
  • Three Dimensional Positioning of Finds, Features and Structures;
  • Excavations Preparation. Preliminary Indoor Research;
  • Excavation Completion. Post Excavation Work and Analyses. Excavation and Reconnaissance Survey Report;
  • Basic Field Methods and Practices for Excavation and Documentation;   
  • Introduction to the Field Journal, Contextual Sheets, Log Book and Other Forms;

    Guided Tours

  • Visiting the Archaeological Museum and the Old Quarter of Nessebar;
  • Visiting the Archaeological Museum and the Old Quarter of Sozopol.

The three-week session provides a minimum of 110 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours incorporating all two-week session's ones plus the following:

  • Additional and more comprehensive field work training and practices;  

  • Course on conservation and restoration of ancient Greek pottery;

  • Guided tour to the natural megalithic and archaeological site of Beglik Tash.


The four-week session provides a minimum of 150 hours of fieldwork and training, workshops, lectures and guided tours incorporating all three-week session's ones plus the following:

  • Processing of archaeological finds - photographing, description, sorting, classification, recognition, etc.


Students participating in the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans will be able to visit Varna, ancient Odessos and Varna Museum of History for free. The excursion is available for the other students for an additional fee.


  • Expect to perform all types of fieldwork at the site, from digging, sifting, flotation and brushing to mapping and sampling as well as finds processing as finds cleaning and sorting, pottery drawing, photographing, analyzing and restoring, etc.

  • Lectures and workshops will take place at the site or in the hotels

The Agenda


First day
  • Two-week session 1/ Three-week session / Four-week session: 24 June, 2017
  • Two-week session 2: 8 July, 2017

Arrival and check-in by 7.00 pm

8.00 - 9.30 pm - Traditional Bulgarian welcome dinner.

Meeting time/point on arrival date: 7:45 - Dom Mladenovi guesthouse garden

A pick-up may be arranged from Burgas, Varna, Sofia and Plovdiv airports, train or bus stations upon request.

Second day

Morning: Presentation of the Balkan Heritage Field School and collaborative universities & institutions, the project and the participants. Ice-breaking.

Afternoon: Town sightseeing and orientation walk.

During the second session participants who are attending three-week or four-week sessions will follow the agenda concerning regular working days.

Work days

6.30 - 7.10 am - Breakfast

7.10 - 7.30 am - Walk to the excavation site;
7.30 am - 1.00/1:30 pm - Fieldwork, including 30 min break*
1.30 - 5.30 pm - Lunch and siesta break
5.30 - 6.30/7.30 pm - Lectures/Workshops /Lab work
7.30 - 8.30 pm - Dinner

* in cases of rain, the project envisions finds' processing workshops, lectures and film projections   

Excursions schedule

The following excursions are included in the field school program and covered by the admission fee:

Old town of Nessebar (UNESCO World Heritage Site).

 Excursion to Varna for participants enrolled through IFR. The other students may join the excursion for an additional fee.

Beglik Tash - natural megalithic and archaeological site (for participants in three-week or four-week sessions).

Apollonia Pontica Excavation Project alumni will be able to attend any tour.


2 July 2017

8 July 2017

15 July 2017

BHFS team could organize/assist with organization of various leisure activities for participants during their free time such as visiting beaches and sites, boating, sailing, fishing, diving, attending cultural events, etc.

Last day

Departure. Check-out by 11.30 am.

Departure date:

Two-week session 1: 8 July 2017    

Three-week session: 15 July 2017 

Two-week session 2 & Four-week session: 22 July 2017

A drop-off may be arranged from Kiten to Burgas, Varna, Sofia and Plovdiv upon request.

Reading Background   


Boardman, J. 1999. The Greeks Overseas. Their Early Colonies and Trade (fourth edition). Thames & Hudson.

Bouzek, J. 2003. Studies of Greek Pottery in the Black Sea Area. Oxford.

Grammenos, D. V., Petropoulos, E. K. 2003. Ancient Greek Colonies in the Black Sea. Vol. 1. Publications of the Archaeological institute of Northern Greece, Nr. 4.

Grant J., Sam Gorin and Neil Fleming. 2008. The Archaeology Coursebook: an introduction to themes, sites, methods and skills. Routledge.

Renfrew, Colin and Paul Bahn. 2006. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. New York.

Sparkes, B. 1991. Greek Pottery. The Introduction. Manchester University Press.

Theodore Pena, J. 2007.Pottery in the Archaeological Record.Cambridge University Press.

Tsetskhladze, Gocha R. 2006, 2008. Greek Colonisation: v. 1, 2: An Account of Greek Colonies and Other Settlements Overseas. Brill.

Travel, Accommodation & Practicalities   



Project venue: the picturesque, small Black Sea coastal town of Sozopol, Bulgaria is a popular summer destination for tourists.  

The nearest air terminals: Burgas airport (45 km/28 mi), Varna airport (160 km/100 mi). don't forget to check the low-cost flight options! If participants arrive at one of these airports, a transfer to Sozopol may be arranged by request (please, specify this in your application form!). Transfers prices are:

Burgas - Sozopol - 26 EUR (=50 BGN); Varna - Sozopol - 102 EUR (200 BGN); Sofia - Sozopol - 204 EUR (400 BGN).

Transfers could be shared by several participants.

How to get there? Bus lines connect Sozopol with Burgas, Sofia (the Bulgarian capital) and Plovdiv.

All participants will receive a travel info-sheet in advance with basic travel instructions and information how to get to the hotel. 

Visa requirements: Citizens of EU, EEA, USA, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa to visit Bulgaria for up to 90 days or any of Bulgaria’s neighboring countries, except Turkey. However, the Turkish government facilitates tourism by providing the option for obtaining an e-visa at www.evisa.gov.tr/en/. Citizens of all other countries may need a visa. The Balkan Heritage Foundation can send an official invitation letter that should be used at the relevant embassy to secure a visa to the program. For further details please visit our Visa information page.


Accommodation & Meals

Accommodation: Accommodation is either at Dom Mladenovi guest house or at VMK Military Club, both of which have comfortable ensuite rooms with two to three beds, equipped with air-conditioning, refrigerators, TV and Internet. The hotels are located very close to the town beaches, the Old Town Quarter, the Archaeological Museum and within 15 min walking distance from the archaeological site. Wi-Fi is available on the first floor of the hotel. Staying an extra day costs 27 EUR. Single rooms are available upon request for an additional fee of 110 EUR per week.

Alternative more luxurious accommodation (single, double or triple rooms) is available for an additional fee of 180 to 270 EUR per week upon request at Villa Kera). Places are limited.

For those who prefer higher class accommodation, the BHFS would recommend to make reservations with the following hotels in Sozopol: Hotel Casa del Mare and Hotel Fiesta. All participants who organize and pay extra for their own accommodation will receive a discount of 75 EUR (per week) off the admission fee.     

See all accommodation options on our Information page!   


Meals: Three meals (fresh, organic Bulgarian food) per day are covered by the admission fee. They usually take place (except the lunch packages during the excursions) in a local tavern. Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Brown-bag lunches are provided during the excursions and days off. All participants who prefer to organize and pay extra for their own food will receive a discount of 75 EUR (per week) off the admission fee. 

Participants must pay on their own for extra days and for single room accommodation as well as for extra meals, beverages, services and products!


Free Time & Trips


Free time: Guided visits of Sozopol and Nessebar (UNESCO World Heritage Site) including their archaeological museums will be organized for all field school participants. Participants in session 3 and the two project sessions (1&2) will visit also the natural megalithic and archaeological site of Beglik Tash. Participants enrolled through the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans will visit Varna and Varna Museum of Archaeology. The other students may join the excursion for an additional fee.


During the summer, Sozopol offers a lot of opportunities for sports and entertainment. Possible leisure activities during the siesta and days off in and around Sozopol are: swimming, sunbathing, beach sports including surfing, visiting local beaches and tourist (natural and heritage) sites, scuba diving, fishing, sailing & boating, attending cultural events, seeing movies in an outdoor cinema or just shopping. 


Technicalities & Practicalities

Insurance: The admission fee does not cover insurance. It is necessary to arrange your own insurance before your trip to Bulgaria. All EU citizens can use Bulgarian medical services, as long as they can provide evidence of their home-country health insurance with a card/certificate, etc.

Weather: A southern European (subtropical) climate dominates in the region, making summers hot (30-40° C/ 86-104° F) but breezy. Rainy and chilly days in this season are rare but not excluded.

What to bring?

  • Working shoes (preferably closed shoes like sneakers or running shoes) as well as comfortable shoes for walking and hiking! Take clothing suitable for outdoor activities (consider weather conditions from hot and sunny to rainy and chilly). Light clothes (with long sleeves and legs for protection from the sun) and sun-hats for the sunny days as well as raincoats for probable rainy and windy days are recommended.
  • Medication - only prescription medicines you may need. It is not necessary to bring non-prescription medicine from your country since you can buy all basic non-prescription drugs in Bulgaria.  
  • Don’t forget to bring a converter to EU type electricity wall-plug if needed.
  • A good attitude for work, fun, study and discoveries ;)


    Excavation & documentation tools and materials, as well as working gloves are available at the site!

The Admission Fee   


The admission fee is valid only for students who enroll in this field school through the Balkan Heritage Field School (BHFS). Students wishing to benefit from the advantages of the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans shall enroll through the Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA and pay different admission fees corresponding to the IFR's terms and conditions.

BHFS admission fee includes: Educational and fieldwork activities, full-board accommodation (hotel + 3 meals per day), tools, materials, project handbook and issue of Certificate of Attendance, administrative costs and excursions included in the field school program plus relevant entrance fees.

The price in USD is approximate .Please check current exchange rates!



Super Early Bird Special - by November 30, 2017:


Super Early Bird Admission fee for two-week session is 1275 EUR* / approx.1424 USDSAVE 224 EUR / 250 USD 

Super Early Bird Admission fee for three-week session is 1911 EUR* / approx. 2135 USD -  SAVE 337 EUR / 377 USD 

Super Early Bird Admission fee for four-week session is 2549 EUR*/ approx. 2847 USD  - SAVE 299 EUR / 334 USD    


Early Bird Special - from November 30, 2016 until February 28, 2017:


Early Bird Admission fee for two-week session is 1349 EUR* / approx.1507 USD - SAVE 150 EUR / 168 USD 

Early Bird Admission fee for three-week session is 2024 EUR* / approx. 2260 USD - SAVE 224 EUR / 250 USD 

Early Bird Admission fee for four-week session is 2699 EUR* / approx. 3014 USD -  SAVE 149 EUR / 166 USD 


Regular admission fee - after February 28, 2017:


The regular admission fee for two-week session is 1499 EUR* (approx.1674 USD)

The regular admission fee for three-week session is 2248 EUR* (approx. 2511 USD). 

The regular admission fee for four-week session is 2848 EUR* (approx. 3181 USD). (Includes 5% discount for participation in 2 sessions). 



* All participants who are willing to organize either their food or accommodation or both separately, outside the project package, will receive a discount of 75 EUR per weeks (for each) and 150 EUR per week (for both) off the regular admission fee. For instance, if your admission fee for two-week session is 1259 EUR (the Early bird) and you prefer to organize and pay extra for your food and accommodation outside the project package, your admission fee will be reduced to 959 EUR (app. 1009 USD).

Admission Fee Transfer Options:

- Bank transfer
- Online transfers via the Balkan Heritage virtual POS Terminal VISA, MASTERCARD & MAESTRO cards are accepted.

For further information contact Admissions Office at [email protected]!

Discounts off the regular admission fee:


* 5% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:

  1. Participation in more than one BHFS project or project session in 2017. (5% discount is valid for all projects/sessions to be attended).
  2. Membership in the Archaeological Institute of America.

* 10% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:

  1. Participation in any BHFS project/s in the past.

* 12% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee available in case of:

  1. Group Participation  (three or more people, who participate together in one BHFS project in 2017). The discount is valid for each participant.

* 15% DISCOUNT OFF the regular admission fee is available in case of:

  1. Group Participation (three or more people, who participate together in more than one BHFS project in 2017). The discount is valid for each participant for all projects sessions to be attended.
  2. BHFS alumni, who participate in more than one BHFS project or project session in 2017. (15% discount is valid only for the second, third etc. project/session to be attended).
  3. BHFS alumni, who participated successfully in at least two sessions of this project in the past.


Note, 5% of every admission fee for this project directly supports the Balkan Heritage Protection Fund's activities!


For more information about scholarships, low-cost flights, hotels, etc. please feel free to contact us or look at our recommended links

Academic Credits   



  • Students who study in Europe (EU, EEA, CH, Russian Federation and countries from the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and Southern Caucasus): New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending two and three-week sessions and 9 ECTS credits for attending the four-week session. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee starting from 282 EUR for six ECTS credits. For details please read carefully the Regulations for obtaining Transcripts of Records.


  • Students who study outside Europe wishing to obtain academic credits for attending the four-week session of this field school project shall apply to the BHF-IFR Program for the Balkans and enroll through the Institute for Field Research (IFR), USA. They will be awarded 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units) through University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA-Extension) and will receive a letter grade. The tuition fee is included in the IFR admission fee. 




Apollonia Pontica Excavation Project

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