CIAO DATE: 7/00
Problems in Power Configuration Sequences: The Southwest Asian Macrosystem to 1500 BC
International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA
March 14-18, 2000
The power configurations of the Southwest Asian civilization/world system were assessed for a modified set of standard archaeological periods to 1500 BC. Results could be interpreted as indicating a multipolar normal phase, or a "normal" oscillation between multipolarity and some more centralized form in which each phase becomes decreasingly stable with its duration.
Problems in Power Configuration Sequences: Southwest Asian Macrosystem to 1500 bc
This paper sketches the convergences, contradictions and problems involved in attempting to determine the sequence of power configurations in Southwest Asia from the early cities of southern Mesopotamia to the fusion of the Southwest Asian and Northeast African civilizations/world systems/macrosocial systems c. 1500 BC.
This is one in a series of papers on issues in the study of very large scale sociopolitical systems, variously labeled civilizations, world systems, and macrosocial systems, stemming from (Wilkinson 1987). The most recent and relevant papers in the set are the codings for power configurations in the Indic system at 50-year intervals from 550 to 400 BC and at 10-year intervals from 400 BC to AD 1800 (Wilkinson 1996) and in the Far Eastern system at 50 and then at 25-year intervals from 1050 BC to AD 1850 (1999a, 1999c). Of necessity, the current paper is far more tentative.
This paper also represents an initial cooperative undertaking in which several researchers have attempted to interrogate the same system over the same period, on different but related topics. It is the first in the set to be done as part of a cooperative research endeavor, in which other workers who have also dealt with social, political, cultural and economic issues at a system level over very long time periods are also engaged: in this round, C. Chase-Dunn, C. Cioffi-Revilla, T.P. Hall, M. Midlarsky, W.R. Thompson.
The boundaries of this paper's inquiry in space and time are a function of the origins and distribution of cities, defined for current purposes as settlements containing populations of the order of 10,000 and upwards. The appropriate starting date for assessments of power configurations in a macrosystem would be the date at which such cities first appear; the appropriate area for assessment at any given moment would be the area in which clusters of such cities are persistently linked by political-diplomatic- military relations (quarrels and alliances, vassalage and equal relations, negotiating and fighting) into power networks which have some structure at any given moment. The rationale for this boundary-fixing procedure is developed in (Wilkinson, 1987).
The system examined in this paper is treated as beginning with the first city of 10,000 population or above in Mesopotamia at some (contested) time before about 3000 BC, and as terminating when the expanding Mesopotamian/Southwest Asian macrosystem collided and fused with an expanding Northwest African/Egyptian macrosystem at about 1500 BC. The justification for this identifying this area as a single macropolitical system, and for its terminus ad quem, is given in (1987). In brief: there have existed in the history of urban humanity perhaps twenty such separate systems--separate in the sense that rivers in the same river basin are separate, until they converge, as these separate systems have mostly also done. An inventory of such systems is offered in (1987) and updated in (1999c); in (1987) their convergence is mapped. Well-known members of the set of "civilizations" or "world systems" or "macrosocial systems" include the Indic, Far Eastern, Egyptian/Northeast African, Mesoamerican and Andean. Most other members are less well known, and were smaller and shorter-lived than these before they merged with the larger flow, here and previously labeled the Central system (1987), which begins with the merging of the Northeast African and Southwest Asian streams about 1500 BC. 1500 BC is accordingly the terminus ad quem for the current study.
The coding scheme mostly employs coding categories familiar in common speech and in the study of world systems/civilizations; it has been previously published in (1996, 1999c), and its only significant conceptual innovation, the introduction of a category of "unipolarity without hegemony" justified at some length in (1999b).
Systems are coded as:
In brief, these categories cut the continuum of possible degrees of centralization of state power configurations in a macrosocial system, or world system, or civilization, as follows:
The preferred descriptive routine would be to take the world system under scrutiny at some fixed interval in time, determine its spatial extent at that moment, and then describe its power configuration over that extent at that moment in terms of the nominal variable "polarity," with the above seven code values: this protocol was feasible for the Indic (1996) and Far Eastern (1999a, 1999c) systems.
Several complications arise in attempting to exercise this procedure upon the Southwest Asian macropolity, whose roots go back some 5000 years and may predate writing. Absolute dating is infeasible; some cities and polities are unlocated or uncertainly located; others are located but undocumented, unexcavated or incompletely excavated; in such records as exist, history, legend and propaganda are often difficult to distinguish.
The convention in Southwest Asian archaeology and history is to distinguish periods of varying length with some noteworthy internal symmetry of social features, assign them estimated lengths, or start-end dates, or culminations, and discuss them in part as coherent wholes, in part as differentiated over space (e.g. by polity or region) or over time (e.g. by reign). This paper adopts that convention, and several of the conventional periods. As however the features whose perseverance determines periodizations are properly those of main concern to the investigator, this paper, whose focus is systemwide political configurations, decides and circumscribes its periods in political terms.
The locus of our system is at first in modern southern Iraq, ancient Sumer-Akkad/Babylonia, the lowland plain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, more particularly the Sumerian south: this because the earliest cities of the continuing macrosystem are thought to have been founded there. As cities rise and fall (but in the long-term net rise more than fall) on the semiperiphery of the existing urban zone, the spatial domain of the study gradually expands to include much of Southwest Asia: up one eastern tributary to ancient Elam/Susiana (modern Khuzistan, SW Iran), and to the Iranian plateau beyond; up the Tigris to Assyria (modern NE Iraq); up the Euphrates to modern NW Iraq and E Syria, then overland to the Orontes and the Mediterranean, to western Syria and Lebanon; then northwestward to coastal Cilicia and the Central Anatolian plateau (modern central Turkey). (Cf. Falkenstein, 1967: 5-9) Here the uncertainties involve both estimating the dates at which each located or suspected urban center reached citydom as above defined, and deciding whether when it did so it was in political touch with the extant urban area (making it an extension of the existing civilization/world system) or for some determinable time a politically isolated entity or region (and hence a macrosystem, perhaps small and short-lived, in itself).
The periodization employed in this paper is derived from, but not identical to, the following periodization scheme which appears to be widely accepted and generally understood among the Southwest Asia scholarly community. The dates, all approximate, are as proposed by, or inferred from, Hallo and Simpson 1998 (H&S), Knapp 1988 (K), Nissen 1988 (N), and Potts 1994 (P).
Upon inspection of the descriptions offered of the systemwide political structure during these periods, it becomes apparent that some of them are inhomogeneous, sometimes very much so. Others are not, or not obviously, differentiated across their proposed time boundaries. On the assumption that closer analysis should yield finer discrimination, I have not conflated those established periods which seemed politically homogeneous across time- boundaries, but I have broken up those periods which seem politically very heterogeneous across time.
Accordingly, the periodization I suggest differs from the above standard chiefly in attempting to mark eras of apparently different power structures off within the "dynastic" background eras. The dates are based as far as possible on the most recent texts, i.e. H&Sdates, otherwise on K dates.
For these proposed periods, the following codings (or substitutes) are tentatively suggested:
|Ubaid.||No valid coding.|
|Early Dynastic I.||Indeterminate.|
|Early Dynastic II.||Multipolar?|
|Early Dynastic IIIa.||Multipolar?|
|Lagash (Early Dynastic IIIb).||Hegemony.|
|Early Dynastic IIIc.||Multipolar?|
|Uruk Dynasty III (Early Dynastic IIId).||Unipolar.|
|Late Ur III.||Multipolar.|
|Pre-Old Babylonian I (Eshnunna).||Unipolar.|
|Pre-Old Babylonian II (Terqa).||Unipolar.|
|Pre-Old Babylonian III.||Multipolar.|
|Late Old Babylonian.||Multipolar.|
The codings should be regarded as even more tentative than the underlying source literature from which they are derived, for the following reason: the typology of system structure as addressed here includes an attempt to increase the precision of the customary descriptions; but in the absence of new data, the most immediate likely result of such an attempt is a diminution of accuracy. Still, historians' descriptions of system structure are sufficiently differentiated to invite an attempt at increased precision.
The following summary provides greater detail as to codings, and indicates the most worrisome areas of uncertainty:
Ubaid. No valid coding. Small farming villages began to grow in consequence of irrigation; the temple originates. But "the size of the site at Eridu was only about 4 acres" (K 43). This is in contradiction to Mallowan (1970: 332): "We may estimate that this ancient market-town had an area of approximately 20-25 acres and may in the 'Ubaid period have contained a population of not less than 4000 souls"; he judges that Ur was "probably not much inferior in size" (352) and that "there is every reason to believe that the city" of Uruk "was prosperous and large" in this period (360). "Not less than" 4000 is by our logarithmic-magnitude criterion of the order of 10,000 rather than 1,000, i.e. a small city not a large town, and would justify a coding, which at this point in research could only be Indeterminate.
Uruk. Indeterminate. If in this period the Uruk site was 30 acres and perhaps 10,000 persons, with a large, elaborate temple complex (K 41, 43), a valid coding sequence could begin; all the more if Mallowan is correct that it is "probable that in the Uruk period the city covered an area of not less than 200 acres" (1970: 360). But not all agree that this is the urban startup period; and it is not clear how many cities started up when and in what order.
Late Uruk. Indeterminate. The same problem persists. For N 66, in this period Uruk was a city, but Ur, Lagash, Nippur and Kish were inhabited places of uncertain status.
Jemdet Nasr. Indeterminate. By this time, the existence of multiple cities is generally acknowledged. For H&S (26-29), this is the period of the first cities in Southern Mesopotamia; K 44 adds Tell Brak, perhaps Nineveh, and Habuba Kebira in Syria. Falkenstein dates cities in Sumeria--Eridu, Ur, Uruk, Badtibira, Lagash, Nina, Girsu, Umma, Nippur, Kish, Sippar, Akshak--probably no later than c. 3000 BC. The cities were unwalled, from which he deduces political stability. (11, 43)
K 45 treats the various cities as separated islands (implying nonpolarity or multipolarity). H&S (28-29) emphasize that there was some meaningful sequence of cities, which can have been hegemonies: Eridu, Badtibira/Patibira, Sippar, Larak, Shuruppak. P (50, 75, 60) suggests that from after 3100 there arose a proto- Elam, perhaps a centralized state with Anshan its capital, whose political relations with Sumer cannot yet be described.
Transition: as a transitional event marking the next change of period, H&S propose the "Flood," evidenced in southern Mesopotamia at Shuruppak and Kish (33).
Early Dynastic I. Indeterminate. Possibly Hegemonic (Hegemon: Kish) or Multipolar (great powers: Ur, Girsu/Lagash, Kish, Larsa, Nippur, Uruk, Kesh, Zabalam) or Nonpolar. H&S: "ED I [was] characterized by the hegemony of Kish" (47; cf. 35-36). N: "the process of development in settlement and irrigation conditions in Babylonia allows no room for such an early empire of Kish" (144). N sees the spheres of influence of the cities as relatively independent on the evidence of settlement distribution, but the data as inadequate to confirm any positive proposition concerning the political structure around or between the cities (106, 131-134, 144). N (95) places Gilgamesh in this period as a ruler of Uruk (N 95); K (75) and H&S (42-43) place Gilgamesh in Early Dynastic II.
Transition: no clear transitional event or sequence marks this boundary.
Early Dynastic II. Multipolar? Great powers: Ur, Uruk, Kish, Elam. Other states: Aratta, Adab, Lagash, Hamazi. H&S propose the preeminence of Kish in Akkad, Uruk and Ur in Sumer, with Aratta, Lagash, Adab, Hamazi also present and engaged, and Awan, capital of Elam a late and possibly briefly hegemonic component (42-44, 47).
Transition: no clear transitional events.
Early Dynastic IIIa. Multipolar? In some order (this is the H&S reconstruction) Kish, Adab, Mari, Lagash, the Uruk-Ur condominium, and Umma claimed a hegemony over Sumer (H&S 48-49). The claims of Lagash and Umma have reasonably convincing evidence for them. The claims of Kish, Adab and Mari we treat here as unproven, and suggest instead the coexistence on a relatively equal footing of these states with Lagash, Uruk-Ur, Umma, Akshak, and Awan/Elam. (H&S 47-49)
Transition: K (77) credits Eannatum of Lagash with defeats of Umma, Mari, Elam, and other Sumerian cities and northern states, P 94-95 with conquering Umma, Uruk and Ur and the Elamite borderlands, perhaps also Akshak and Kish, H&S 91 with destroying Mari.
Lagash (Early Dynastic IIIb). Hegemony. Eannatum of Lagash briefly holds the cities of Babylonia, plus Mari, in his sphere of influence (N 143-144, 146).
Transition: "toward the end of Eannatum's reign his sphere of influence had shrunk back to its original size." (N 143-144)
Early Dynastic IIIc. Multipolar? This is the alleged, but not demonstrated, hegemonic period of the Uruk-Ur condominium, with three generations of claimant rulers. Absent evidence to the contrary, Uruk-Ur, Adab, Kish, Mari, Akshak, Lagash, Shuruppak, Ebla, Awan in Elam should probably be treated as system members in a multipolar structure. (H&S 44-49)
Transition: Lugalzagesi of Umma destroys Lagash, moves to Uruk-Ur, and achieves hegemony over Umma, Uruk, Ur, Larsa, Nippur, perhaps Kish, and generally over Sumer and Akkad. (H&S 51; Gadd 1971b, 420).
Uruk dynasty III (Early Dynastic IIId). Hegemony. Polar state: Uruk (Lugalzagesi), with Ur, Umma.
Transition: Sargon builds Agade city, campaigns against Amorites (W), Purushkanda (Anatolia), Elam and Barakshi/Markhashi (E), Dilmun (S) before confronting Lugalzagesi. This ordering--and the proposal for a Uruk-Agade period--is based on the argument of H&S 52-53, that Sargon's campaigns outside Sumer predate his conquest of Sumer, which came very late, disguised as the suppression of a revolt; K 85 and N 168 assume the standard reverse ordering of Drower and Bottero, reasoning from inscription order as Gadd 1971b: 422, 424.
Uruk-Agade. Bipolar. Polar states: Uruk (Lugalzagesi) with Ur, Umma; Agade (Sargon) with semiperiphery. (H&S 51-53)
Transition: Sargon conquers (H&S 53, vs. "puts down revolt of") Kish, Uruk, and Ur.
Akkad I. Hegemony. Hegemon: Akkad (Sargon, last 5 years; Rimush; Manishtushu). Former rulers of independent city-states like Lugalzagesi became, or were replaced by, appointed "governors." (H&S 51-57; K 85-87)
Transition: Rimush beats down repeated provincial insurrections, and is assassinated; Manishtushu establishes rule over Assur and Susa, faces rebellion, and is assassinated; Naram- Sin probably brings Akkad's empire to its largest, possibly destroying the very large (140 acre) city of Ebla. (H&S 56, K 85, N 168-169, Gadd 1971b 434-440)
Akkad II. Empire. Metropole: Akkad (Naram-Sin; Shar-kali- sharri). Provinces: Elam/Susa, Assyria, Mari, Syria, perhaps Subartu and Purushkanda (Anatolia). (H&S 57-62, 89) Naram-Sin ruled as king of the world (or the "four quarters") and as God (H&S 57; N 169-170, 182; Gadd 1971b 440-445); he left his heir control of Sumer, Akkad and Elam (P 116-119).
Transition: in or after the reign of Shar-kali-sharri (H&S 62-63, 68; K 91; N 170, 184-185; Gadd 1971b 454-457), Akkad, under pressure of internal insurrection and of Gutians and Hurrians in the NE, Lullubi in the N, Amorites in the W, loses all its empire and is reduced to the city of Agade.
Late Akkadian. Multipolar. Great powers: Lagash, Uruk, Adab, Anshan, Elam, Akkad, Ur, Umma, Gutians. (H&S 63-65; K 91-92) This period contains a possible brief unipolar moment when Gudea of Lagash (c. 2135, H&S 64, or 2120, K 93) rules Uruk and Adab, and defeats Anshan and Elam/Susa (H&S 63; but cf. Gadd 1971b: 459-461 which treats Gudea as only one local prince among many).
Transition: Utu-hegal of Uruk regains Ur and defeats the Guti (H&S 72; Gadd 1971b 461-463); Ur-Nammu of Ur reasserts its independence and, uniquely, acquires hegemony over Sumer and Akkad mainly by building public works (especially temples) (H&S 72-74; Gadd, 1971a, 595-600).
Ur III. Hegemony. Polar state: Ur (Ur-Nammu; Shulgi; Amar- Sin; Shu-Sin), with Eridu, Larsa, Kesh, Uruk, Umma(?), Lagash. Friendly and independent: Mari, Anshan, Markhashi/Barakshi. (H&S 72-80; K 92-98) Ur-Nammu produced a law compendium. (H&S 74-75) Shulgi built temples and palaces, deified himself, innovated a tribute schedule to sustain the temples, fought many distant campaigns mostly against the mountain peoples of the north and east. (H&S 78; Gadd 1971a 601-603) City-states were administrative districts ruled by appointed, rotated governors. Conquered populations were deported and resettled. Power was concentrated in a wealthy state bureaucratic elite. (K 94; cf. Gadd 1971a 603-604) Shulgi incorporated Susiana and looted Anshan, capital of Elam, without subjugating Elam (P 126-129; cf. Gadd 1971a 603).
Transition: Ibbi-Sin rules 24 years (K 98: 2028-2004) ; from 4th year subject states fall away, most importantly Isin under Ishbi-Irra. (H&S 81-82; Gadd 1971a 611-615)
Late Ur III period. Multipolar. Great powers (not all for the entire period): Ur (Ibbi-Sin), Umma, Lagash, Nippur, Isin (Ishbi-Irra), Assur, Eshnunna, Der, Susa. (H&S 81-82)
Transition: Ur was razed (by Elamites of Simashki?) in Ibbi- Sin's 24th year; Isin claimed the Ur dynastic title. (H&S 81-82; Gadd 1971a 612-617, 631) Ebla was destroyed again c. 2000, perhaps by Amorites, and there may have been a reversion to village life in Syria (K 130, 132; Kenyon, 583-594).
Isin period. Unipolar. Polar state: Isin (with central province governors). Lesser states: Assyria, Elam. (H&S 82-83) Alternatively, with Postgate (22) and Gadd (1971a: 632), Nonpolar: "numerous small states," (43)--his map shows 18 independent polities : Qatna, Aleppo, Carchemish, Karana, Mari, Ashshur, Sippar, Neribtum, Tutub, Eshnunna, Babylon, Kish, Der, Isin, Kisurra, Uruk, Larsa, Susa (44).
Transition: c. 1930 Amorites (perhaps former governors of Lagash for Isin) established an independent dynasty at Larsa and took Ur. (H&S 83, 85; Gadd 1971a 633-634)
Isin-Larsa I. Bipolar. Polar states: Isin, Larsa. (H&S 85) Anatolia was divided into many city-states; Assyria had trade colonies in Kanesh and others (K 141-142).
Transition: Isin and Larsa fought each other down 1897-1894, and Babylon, Sippar, Uruk and Eshnunna became independent. (H&S 86-87)
Isin-Larsa II. Multipolar. Great powers: Isin, Larsa, Babylon, Kish, Sippar, Uruk, Eshnunna, Assyria, Der, Elam/Susa, Anshan, Shimashki, Hatti states (Purushkanda, Kanish, Ma'ama, Kushara). Isin fought Larsa; Assyria intervened in southern Mesopotamia; the Hatti states fought each other. (H&S 86-87, 90; K 138, 140) Der fought Elam and Shimashki (P 34, 130: probably in western Iran).
Transition: Naram-Sin of Eshnunna created a large empire, including Mari and Assyria. (H&S 88, 91, 95, 112).
Pre-Old Babylonian I (Eshnunna). Unipolar. Polar state: Eshnunna (Naram-Sin). (H&S 88, 91, 95; Gadd 1971a 635-636)
Transition: Shamshi-Adad of Terqa, retroactively adopted as an Assyrian founder, seized Assyria upon Naram-Sin of Eshnunna's death, created a large northern Mesopotamian empire, including Mari, moved his capital to Shubat-Enlil (Tell Leilan, Syria), and ruled c. 1814-1781 BC. (H&S 91-92, 95; K 145-146; Gadd 1971a 639; Kupper 1-2)
Pre-Old Babylonian II (Terqa). Unipolar. Polar state: Terqa/Shubat-Enlil/Mari+Assyria (Shamshi-Adad). Lesser states: Hatti states, Hittites, Syrian Yamhad (cap. Halb/Aleppo), Eshnunna, Larsa, Isin, Uruk, Babylon, Alalakh, Qatna. (H&S 91-92, 95; K 145- 148)
Transition: Rim-Sin of Larsa reigned 60 years c. 1822-1763, annexed Uruk 1802, Isin 1794, and reached equality with Assyria and Yamhad. (H&S 93; Gadd 1971a 641-643; Kupper 2-8)
Pre-Old Babylonian III. Multipolar. Great powers: Larsa (Rim-Sin) with Uruk and Isin; Assyria; Yamhad (cap. Halb/Aleppo); Qatna; Mari; Elam; Eshnunna; Babylon.(H&S 93-96; Kupper 7-22; Gadd 1973 176-182; Hinz 263-264)
Transition: rise of Babylon under Hammurabi from 1792; in Hammurabi's 30th year 1763 Babylon took Larsa and its conquests; he defeated Assyria and Elam, conquered Eshnunna, defeated and conquered Mari. (H&S 94-97; K 148; Kupper 28; Gadd 1973 182-184; Hinz 264-266)
Hammurabic. Unipolar. Polar state: Babylon (Hammurabi). (H&S 96; Gadd 1973 184-220) Centralized extraction of tribute and taxes; long harsh legal code (K 148).
Transition: distant provinces broke away on Hammurabi's death (K 148); Larsa revived c. 1741, taking Ur and Uruk; Terqa, perhaps the first Kassite locus, fought Babylon 1741; Hittites founded a kingdom at Kushara c. 1740; in an Isin revival, southern Mesopotamia became independent as the Sea-Land, cap. Urimku/Urukug, c. 1739. (K 148; H&S 97-98, 101; Gadd 1973, 220-223; Hinz 266)
Late Old Babylonian. Multipolar: Babylon, Hittites, Yamhad, Qatna, Sealand, Kassites, Khana/Mari, Elam, Ugarit. (H&S 97-99, 101; Gadd 1973, 223-227; Hinz 267-269; Drower 426)
Transition: under Hattushili I c. 1650-1620 and Murshili I c. 1620-1595, the Hittite kingdom, capital now at Hattusha, fights Yamhad; in a possible unipolar moment, Murshili breaks through, conquers Babylon 1595, but is assassinated, and the Hittite kingdom undergoes generations of palace revolutions and loses Cilicia/Kizzuwatna to independence. (H&S 101-103, 108-109; Gurney 1973b 241-251; Gurney 1973a 659-665)
Kassite-Hurrian. Multipolar: Kassites, Hittites, Sealand, Hurrians, Cilicia, Khana/Mari, Elam, Alalakh, Ugarit, Qatna, Qadesh. Hittites fight Hurrians, who rule Assyria from c. 1650. Sealand, then Kassites of Terqa, take Babylon. (H&S 95, 101-112; Hinz 269-271; Drower 426-427, 430)
Transition: c. 1500 Mitanni kingdom, cap. Washukanni, emerges among Hurrians, and stretches to Alalakh and Ugarit. Operations of Thutmose I (1504-1491) on the Euphrates fuse the Mesopotamian/Southwest Asian and Egyptian/Northeast African macrosystems. (H&S 107, 255; Hayes 315-316; Drower 422-423, 431- 432)
Central System startup. Tripolar: Egypt, Hittites, Mitanni (H&S 110, 254).
Excluding the post-1500 period as belonging to a new, fused system, we observe the following distribution over the 800 unambiguously coded years 2300-1500 BC:
While there was no way in which multipolarity could have been construed as the normal system-condition in the Indic (Wilkinson 1996) or Far Eastern (1999c) cases, the Southwest Asian macrosystem spends both a majority of its years and a plurality of its periods in multipolarity, whose normality and stability thereby becomes a plausible proposition.
Rather than propose a multipolar norm, however, I would suggest that the trajectories of the system suggest the existence of some underlying oscillatory mechanism which renders both multipolarity and the whole set of more centralized forms approximately equally stable (or unstable) and durable, and which increasingly impels a movement toward centralization the longer the time spent in a multipolar status, and away from centralization the longer the time spent away from such status.
If this conjecture is correct, discerning the oscillatory mechanism will be an interesting research venture. Candidates might range from climate to charisma.
Conclusion. The Southwest Asian Macrosystem was examined, and periods in its existence c. 3300-1500 coded on a power configuration variable. Multipolarity may have been a normal stable system state; but signs of an oscillation moving the system between multipolarity and several more centralized forms were noticed.
Main Chronological and Judgmental Issues
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