Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Persepolis Fortification Archive (PFA) Project Annual Report 2009-2010

[The following is a very slightly altered (addition of hyperlinks and color photographs) version of the text of an 

Persepolis Fortification Archive Project
2009-2010 Annual Report 
Matthew W. Stolper
The Persepolis Fortification Archive is a treasury of information about the languages, society, institutions, religion, and art of the Achaemenid Persian Empire at its zenith, around 500 bc.  Its value depends on a combination of complexity (the archive contains detailed information of many different kinds) and integrity (the archive is an excavated artifact, a single, coherent cache of tens of thousands of documents from a single time and place).

The legal crisis that puts the future of the many Persepolis Fortification tablets in doubt also endangers the integrity of the single Persepolis Fortification Archive. The suit is still before federal courts, and the threat remains grave and persistent, but while the law takes its stately course, the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project pursues its emergency priorities: to enable future research by making thorough records of the archive, and to enable current research by distributing the records freely and continuously. 

 Figure 1. Four BetterLight scans of a fragmentary Persepolis Fortification Aramaic tablet (PFAT 684).  Clockwise from upper left: polarized light, infrared filter, negative tone scale, red filter 

During 2009–2010, Clinton Moyer (PhD 2009, Cornell), Joseph Lam (PhD candidate, NELC), Miller Prosser (PhD candidate, NELC), and John Walton (PhD candidate, NELC) continued to operate the two Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) domes and the BetterLight scanning camera, making very high-quality images of selected Fortification tablets and fragments (fig. 1). As of mid-2010, this phase of the project — a collaboration with the West Semitic Research Project (WSRP) at the University of Southern California — has captured images of about 2,600 items: more than 670 monolingual Aramaic tablets, more than 200 Aramaic epigraphs on tablets with Elamite cuneiform texts, about 1,500 sealed, uninscribed tablets, and about 200 Elamite tablets and fragments.
Figure 2. Wear and repair on one of the PTM domes

The range of imaging techniques, the range of detail that they reveal, and the rate of output from this phase of the project grow with experience. Making the images outruns processing them for display, so two PTM-image processing stations have been added at the Oriental Institute to supplement post-processing done at the University of Southern California. Despite the duct-tape and baling-wire look of the PTM domes (fig. 2), their reliability is outstanding: the shutters of the cameras on the two  PTM domes have tripped more than 1,000,000 times during the life of the project.

Manning the post-processing stations are some of the crew who are also making and editing conventional digital images of the largest component of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, the Elamite Fortification tablets and fragments. During the past year, this group included Lori Calabria, Jon Clindaniel, Gregory Hebda, Will Kent, Megaera Lorenz, Tytus Mikolajczak, and Lise Truex (all NELC), Joshua Skornik (Divinity School); Anastasia Chaplygina (MAPH); Nicholas Geller, Amy Genova, Erika Jeck, and Daniel Whittington (Classics); and returning Persepolis Fortification Archive Project alumnus Trevor Crowell (Catholic University). Three photography and editing stations are in use now, and so far this phase of the project has made about 50,000 images of about 4,000 tablets and fragments with Elamite cuneiform texts. Editing these pictures for display now runs ahead of taking them, so the backlog is shrinking. Older picture sets are being checked and reshot as necessary for completeness and to match the higher standards of the later sets that reflect the photographers’ accumulated experience. Haphazard file names from earlier picture sets are being made consistent with later sets, to facilitate linked online display and to prepare metadata for long-term storage.

After two more extended visits to the Oriental Institute, Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editor Wouter Henkelman (Free University of Amsterdam and Collège de France) has finished revised, collated, and annotated editions of about 2,400 of the 2,600 Elamite texts known from preliminary editions by the late Richard Hallock (called NN texts). He expects to collate the remainder in the summer and autumn of 2010 and to furnish complete translations in preparation for online distribution and hard-copy publication. I have continued to make preliminary editions of new Elamite Fortification texts, concentrating on document types that are underrepresented in the published sample of the Persepolis Fortification Archive; as of mid-2010, I have recorded about 585 of these.

The second largest component of the Persepolis Fortification Archive consists of uninscribed (anepigraphic) tablets (PFUT or PFAnep), that is, tablets with seal impressions but without accompanying texts. Our first estimates of the number of useful pieces of this kind were too low.  During nine trips to the Oriental Institute during the past year, Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editor Mark Garrison (Trinity University) systematically examined another 25 percent of the 2,600 boxes of Fortification tablets and fragments to select uninscribed tablets for cataloging and PTM imaging. Now that about half of the boxes of tablets have been sifted, more than 2,100 uninscribed tablets have been selected for study. Post-doctoral researcher Sabrina Maras (University of California–Berkeley) is cataloging this material under Garrison’s direction, a process that involves identifying impressions of previously known seals, assigning numbers to new seals, and sketching impressions of them; during the summer of 2010, she is joined in this work by graduate student Jenn Finn (University of Michigan). The results continue to bear out the general observation that some seals used on uninscribed tablets were also used on Elamite or Aramaic Fortification tablets, but most — around ten times as many — were not: on 275 cataloged tablets, there are impressions of more than thirty seals previously known from tablets with Elamite texts, but there are also impressions of 300 new seals. Garrison also continues to read the seals on the NN tablets. As of mid-2010, he has identified seal impressions on almost half of the NN tablets, and about 1,250 tablets that have yielded impressions of another 465 previously unknown seals. Post-doctoral student Wu Xin (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York) is documenting some of this material under Garrison’s direction.

  Figure 3. Impression of a newly identified inscribed seal in Assyrian style accompanying
a newly edited Elamite text of an underrepresented type

All told, impressions of about 2,500 distinct seals have been cataloged on Persepolis Fortification tablets so far, the markers of as many distinct individuals and offices. Even if new seals are identified at a slower rate as work continues, the Persepolis Fortification Archive is certain to yield one of the largest coherent sets of images from anywhere in the ancient world.

The third main component of the Persepolis Fortification Archive consists of tablets with texts in Aramaic, some 670 identified to date. Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editor Annalisa Azzoni (Vanderbilt University) made two extended trips to the Oriental Institute during the past year to work on them. She has examined, numbered, cataloged, and made preliminary editions of about 100 monolingual Aramaic tablets and about 110 of the 200 Aramaic epigraphs on Elamite tablets identified so far. She is developing a formal typology of the documents to allow consistency with work on the Elamite texts and to clarify functional connections among streams of data recorded in Aramaic and in Elamite. Graduate student Emily Wilson (Classics), working under the direction of Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editors Elspeth Dusinberre (University of Colorado) and Mark Garrison, has been completing Dusinberre’s collated drawings of seals on the Aramaic tablets and entering new descriptive and cataloging data on the PFAT seals in the On-Line Cultural Heritage Research Environment (OCHRE).

Figure 4. What the seals show that the texts do not: PTM views of altar scenes from seal impressions on four uninscribed fortification tablets

Figure 5. What the seals tell about the seal users: among 2,500 seals identified so far in the PFA, only four show scenes of human warfare; here, a Persian archer shoots a Scythian warrior in the seal impression on an Elamite Fortification tablet

Persepolis Fortification Archive project manager Dennis Campbell (post-doctoral student, Oriental Institute) coordinates, connects, and smoothes data and images for presentation via OCHRE. Oriental Institute Internet data specialist Sandra Schloen has prepared a revised version of OCHRE’s display of
Persepolis Fortification Archive material that includes a range of options for viewing and combining texts, translations, glossaries, grammatical information, and seals, displayed with a new look and feel. Lying behind this display are improved tools for importing texts and glossing and parsing them, hotspotting images, and linking images to texts — all processes that are increasingly automated as the corpus of information in OCHRE grows. Graduate student Seunghee Yie (NELC) imports Elamite texts into OCHRE and prepares editions for export to other sites (notably the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative [CDLI]); graduate student Wayne Munsch (Divinity School) tags and links photographs, transliterations, and grammatical parse of Elamite Fortification documents.

Figure 6. Two views of an Aramaic Fortification tablet: left, PTM image highlighting seal impression;
right, BetterLight scan with red filter, highlighting inked text

More than 20,000 conventional and high-quality digital images, more than 7,000 low-resolution PTM sets, more than 3,200 editions of Elamite texts, and 100 editions of Aramaic texts, drawings, and analytical information on more than 650 new seals and a catalog of about 1,100 previously known seals have been entered in OCHRE in preparation for public display. As of mid-2010, about 1,400 Fortification tablets are publicly available on OCHRE, including 1,250 Elamite tablets presented with transliterations, many with translations, and all with click-through glossary and morphological parsing, conventional photographs (many of them tagged and linked to transliterations), seal analysis, and other options; 40 Aramaic tablets, presented with transliterations, translations, seal information, click-through glossary and parse, and high-quality images, including screen-resolution PTM images that allow the viewer to control the lighting on screen; and 110 uninscribed, sealed tablets with cataloging information, some collated drawings, and high-quality images, including live screen-resolution PTM imagery. 

 Figure 7. OCHRE display of an Elamite Fortification tablet, text, translation, and seal impression 

The West Semitic Research Project (WSRP) team at the University of Southern California presents images of Persepolis Fortification tablets via their online application InscriptiFact. Publicly available there as of mid-2010 are about 15,000 images of about 525 Persepolis Fortification tablets, including 400 Aramaic and 100 uninscribed tablets. In the spring of 2010, InscriptiFact released a new version that incorporates a robust online viewer for high-resolution PTM imagery. This allows users to manipulate apparent lighting (direction, intensity, and focus of one light or two) and apparent surface reflectivity and to compare PTM views with one another and with high-resolution static images. The viewer and the PTM files can also be downloaded for local use. 

Figure 8. Antiquity at Persepolis: three views of the seal impression and Aramaic epigraph on reverse
of an Elamite Fortification tablet (PF 2026), displayed in Inscriptifact. Left: static views with polarized light and infrared filter; right, high-resolution PTM image. The Old Babylonian seal was more than 1,000 years old when it made this impression

Efforts to promote awareness of the plight of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, the unique qualities and value of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, and the aims, methods, and results of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project included a panel at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in January 2010, with presentations by me and by Persepolis Fortification Archive Project members Annalisa Azzoni, Dennis Campbell, Elspeth Dusinberre, and Mark Garrison, along with WSRP collaborators Marilyn Lundberg and Bruce Zuckerman (USC). A panel at the annual meeting of the American Oriental Society honoring the Achaemenid historian (and member of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project’s international advisory board) Amélie Kuhrt included papers by me and by project editors Garrison and Henkelman, and one by graduate student Persepolis Fortification Archive Project worker Tytus Mikolajczak. As professeur invité at the Collège de France in Paris in November 2009, Garrison gave four lectures on the glyptic art of the Persepolis Fortification Archive, drawing on recent project results. Azzoni lectured on the Persepolis Fortification Archive and the project at the Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt University, and at Baylor University. Dusinberre presented a talk on the Persepolis Fortification Archive at the Boulder, Colorado, Society of the Archaeological Institute of America. I talked about the Persepolis Fortification Archive and the project in and around Chicago at the Harvard Club, at the University of Chicago Humanities Day, at Wheaton College, at the Illinois Institute of Technology, at the Franke Institute for the Humanities, and  at the Midwest Faculty Seminar; farther afield I talked at an event organized by Friends of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project in Palo Alto (a video of the talk is available
), at Berkeley, at the New York University Humanities Institute, at the University of Pennsylvania, at a symposium of the American Institute of Iranian Studies in New York, and at the British Museum. At Johns Hopkins University, I had the honor of devoting the annual W. F. Albright Memorial Lecture to the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project. At Oxford University, I described our methods and experience to the staff of an Oxford-Southampton pilot project using PTM imaging to record ancient artifacts.
Figure 9. Athenian owl in Persepolis and California; title slide of PFA Project panel at 2010 meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America: an Athenian tetradrachm impressed on an uninscribed Fortification tablet, and the same image incorporated in the emblem of the AIA

For the worldwide online audience, the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project Weblog provides access to articles from scholarly and news media  about the archive, the lawsuit, and topics in Achaemenid archaeology and epigraphy: thirty-six  entries were posted in the last year. Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editor Charles Jones (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York) reports that the blog has been viewed more than 18,000 times in the last year, by more than 12,000 unique visitors, more than 1,800 of  them repeat visitors. It has been viewed almost 70,000 times since it debuted in October 2006.

The University News Office released a new press release on the project’s collaboration with WSRP in recording the Aramaic Fortification texts, with an accompanying video. Online journalistic accounts focus on the archive’s legal situation and its broader implications for other cultural artifacts; examples are an article in the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Key Reporter by a lawyer working at Corcoran and Rowe, the firm representing Iran in the litigation, and an article in the online journal of the U.S. State Department,

Persepolis Fortification Archive Project editorial staff (Azzoni, Dusinberre, Garrison, Henkelman, Jones, and Stolper) prepared an entry for the Encyclopaedia Iranica on “Persepolis Administrative Archives,” providing an authoritative description of the Persepolis Fortification and Treasury Archives
and an extensive bibliography of current scholarship on them. Images, texts, analysis, and other current results also appear in a stream of publications by project staff and their collaborators, for example, “Seals Bearing Hieroglyphic Inscriptions from the Persepolis Fortification Archive” by Mark Garrison and Oriental Institute Egyptologist Robert Ritner, and “The First Achaemenid Administrative Document Discovered at Persepolis” by Charles E. Jones and Seunghee Yie, both in ARTA: Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology; “Archers at Persepolis,” by Mark Garrison, in The World of Achaemenid Persia, edited by J. Curtis and St. John Simpson (London, 2010); and “New Observations on ‘Greeks’ in the Achaemenid Empire,” by Wouter Henkelman and Robert Rollinger, and “Ethnic Identity and Ethnic Labelling at Persepolis,” by Wouter Henkelman and me, both in Organisation des pouvoirs et contacts culturels dans les pays de l’empire achéménide, edited
by P. Briant and M. Chauveau (Paris, 2009).

In last year’s Annual Report, I mentioned that I was particularly pleased to have found a  document of a new type, an example of the surprises that the Persepolis Fortification Archive still  has to offer. Now I can report with even more delight that we have found four other examples of the same type. What began as an extraordinary sidelight has become a repeating feature of the Persepolis Fortification Archive’s structure and function. This is a well-known phenomenon in work on ancient Near Eastern texts and objects: finding one clear example of something newly understood brings other examples out of the shadows. It is a reminder that the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project is not only producing emergency records of basic information; it is also making strides in our ability to interpret the information. 

Figure 10. Old Persian tablet from the Persepolis Fortification Archive illustrated on the dust jacket of
Numerical Notation: A Comparative History (Cambridge, 2009)

Gratifying in another sense is the citation of the unique Old Persian Fortification text in Stephen Chrisomalis’s Numerical Notation: A Comparative History. The expected audience for the Persepolis Fortification Archive, students of the Achaemenid Persian empire as a whole or in its parts, is scattered among academic subdisciplines, but this citation testifies to the value of the Persepolis Fortification Archive for an unanticipated audience and unexpected research, and it vindicates the use of electronic techniques and media.

A sadder note in closing: July brought the startling news of the sudden death of John Melzian.  John was an industrial designer by training and profession and key member of the InscriptiFact team by inclination and choice. He built and installed the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project’s PTM domes, and he supported the work of the project with curiosity, perspicacity, realism, and grace. 


This Annual Report is republished here with the kind permission of the Oriental Institute Membership Office. The Oriental Institute Annual Reports are available for members as one of the privileges of membership. They are not for sale to the general public. They contain yearly summaries of the activities of the Institute’s faculty, staff, and research projects, as well as descriptions of special events and other Institute functions.

See linked data for Persepolis via awld.js 

News: Persepolis II back in print

After several decades out of print, Oriental Institute Publication 69, Persepolis II: Contents of the Treasury and Other Discoveries, has been digitally reprinted. An Adobe Portable Document Format (pdf) version is also available for download.

Go to the chronicle of news on Persepolis.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Thursday, December 02, 2010

News: NIAC Grant for an education campaign about the Persepolis artifacts

Major New Grant Awards Will Help Build the Capacity of Iranian-Americans

NIAC has received three major grant awards totaling $446,000 from the Parsa Community Foundation, the leading philanthropic organization serving the Iranian-American community.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Nobar Elmi
Phone: 202-386-6325
... A third grant will underwrite a comprehensive media and education campaign about the Persepolis artifacts, priceless Persian antiquities currently caught in a legal battle.  The case is ongoing and its outcome could set potentially shattering precedents for the art world, museums and cultural institutions worldwide, as well as have a deep, negative impact on the cultural identity of Americans of Iranian descent.

Go to the chronicle of news on Persepolis.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Persepolis in the News

Beginning January 1, 2007, this page will include links to stories from the news on Persepolis, but not related to the Persepolis Fortification Archive. News stories on the archive will be in Persepolis Tablets in the News.

Did U Know: Persian Chicago Bull
The oldest bull in Chicago came from a Persian palace. Chris DeRose takes us to the Oriental Institute to find out more.

Archaeologists Unearth and Reopen the Achaemenid Swage System at Persepolis 
The News Section of the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)
Tuesday, 10 July 2012 18:51

LONDON, (CAIS) -- Iranian Archaeologists have begun work on unearthing the Persepolis swage system, which in ancient times diverted rainwater from the platform to prevent flooding, reported the Persian service of ISNA on Tuesday.

According to the news, apart from the sewage system, archaeologists have identified three water and irrigation systems at Persepolis, which circulated water over the platform. The sewage system, which is one of the most complex systems in the ancient world, diverted excess water flowing down from Mount Rahamt, away from the platform.

The Achaemenid engineers constructed and implemented the sewage system inside the platform before construction of the citadel. The oldest sewage system at Persepolis is dated to the reign of Darius the Great (r. 550-486 BCE).

Archaeologists believe that by unearthing and re-opening the ancient waterways and the sewage systems, they will be able to resolve the flood issue that Persepolis has been suffering from, particularly in the past few years.

Last year archaeologists warned the authorities that if no necessary measures were taken immediately to resolve the flood issue at Persepolis, the ancient edifice will cease to exit within 10 years.

Part of Persepolis sewage system unearthed
Source: Tehran Times
A team of Iranian archaeologists has recently discovered 20 meters of a canal of the sewage system of Persepolis in southern Iran. The team led by Ali Asadi has been commissioned to carry out excavations of the sewage system to discover how the system worked during the Achaemenid era, the Persian service of CHN reported on Tuesday.
The sewage system is located in the southwest of the Achaemenid city near the city of Shiraz.
The team dug down about five meters to reach the canal, Asadi said.
A number of stone bas-reliefs have also been discovered during the excavations, he added.
Asadi said that the sewage system branches off into many canals, which extend to the south and then turn to the east.

News is emerging today (15 February 2012) of the theft in October 2011, from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, of two pieces, one of them a "Persian low relief of the head of a guard, dating from the fifth century BC. It is made of sandstone, and estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars".

Two valuable artifacts stolen from Montreal museum
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

Achaemenid dynasty (558-330 B.C.) Head of a Guard (Fragment of a low relief 5th c. B.C. Sandstone 21 x 20.5 x 3 cm - Achaemenid dynasty (558-330 B.C.) Head of a Guard (Fragment of a low relief 5th c. B.C. Sandstone 21 x 20.5 x 3 cm

 Video of a suspect has been released

Uploaded by on Feb 14, 2012
Surveillance video of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from Oct. 26, 2011 shows a suspect in the museum that police and the museum believe may have stolen two archaeological sculptures, a Persian bas relief and a Roman head of a man that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. British-based AXA Art, which is insuring the objects, hopes the public will recognize the individual and call police. The company is offering substantial rewards for the return of the objects and for the arrest of the suspect.

Achaemenid palace found in Iran

Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient palace dating back to the Achaemenid dynasty in Dahaneh Gholaman located in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan. 

The Dahaneh Gholaman site, in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan [Credit: Press TV]
Comparing the structure in the Dahaneh Gholaman site with Achaemenid palaces in Takht-e Jamshid and Pasargaad proved that the newly-found site dates to the Achaemenid era, said Kourosh Mohammadkhani, leader of the archeological team, IRNA reported. 

He added that the finding is the most significant achievement in the current phase of the recent study. 

The Dahaneh Gholaman site comprises of 54 ancient structures, most of which were discovered during the years 1959 and 2008. 

Takht-e Jamshid (Throne of Jamshid) or Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BCE) which is located in Iran's Fars Province. 

Pasargadae was also the capital of another Achaemenid king, Cyrus (559-530 BCE), and is the location of his tomb. Recent research has shown that Achaemenid engineers constructed the city to withstand a severe earthquake.  

Source: Press TV [July 31, 2011]

The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives (Freer|Sackler Archives)  received a grant from the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund to aid in the preservation of the Herzfeld squeezes in the Archives, which date from 1911-1934.

The squeezes contain Arabic script, Middle Persian, and Cuneiform impressions from archaeological sites: Bastam, Isfahan, Rayy, Samarra, Shiraz, Sunghur, Taq-i Bustan, Tus, Sarpul, Pasargadae, Persepolis, Naqsh-i Rustam, and Paikuli.

See today's notice of updates on Ernst Herzfeld Online Resources by Rachael Cristine Woody on the Smithsonian blog.

After several decades out of print, Oriental Institute Publication 69, Persepolis II: Contents of the Treasury and Other Discoveries, has been digitally reprinted. An Adobe Portable Document Format (pdf) version is also available for download.

3d Imaging to Unlock Ancient Mysteries
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Rachael Cristine Woody 

There are some very exciting activities happening around the Freer|Sackler Gallery, and in the Archives specifically.  I am going to unveil to you my favorite object.  I know I say that about a lot of the collections I show you, but this object really is an amazing specimen.  Let me introduce to you squeeze 50A. For you to better understand, below are a couple definitions.

A squeeze: is a series of sheets of paper that are layered on top of each other and moistened to create a wet pulp affect.  This substance is pressed upon the inscriptions capturing the impressionistic writing like a 3-dimensional negative affect.  These inscriptions typically cover the ancient culture's mythology, and histories. The squeezes in the Ernst Herzfeld papers are roughly 80-100 years old.  The squeezes have been made out of varying qualities of paper from very high grade, to cigarette paper Herzfeld must of had to use in a pinch.  The squeezes have since been transported around the world, squished in non-archival approved ways, and suffer from various issues that affect all paper products.

Squeezing: Here, you see Herzfeld and his team on ladders applying the wet paper to the monuments of ancient Iran.

Ernst Herzfeld: Archaeologist, art historian, and architect who excavated pre-Islamic and early Islamic sites.
Read the rest...

Iran publishes Persepolis petroglyph translations, PRESSTV, Wed, 05 Aug 2009 14:33:30 GMT
Iran's Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopedia (CGIE) has published Persian translations of a number of Persepolis petroglyphs.

The inscriptions have been translated by Iranian linguist and inscriptions expert Abdolmajid Arfaei and published in a book titled Translations of Persepolis Walls.

In an interview with ISNA News Agency, Arfaei said that the book contains 164 texts translated between 1998 and 2003.

“The original texts belong to Iran's National Museum and there might still be some inscriptions which have not been translated,” Arfaei said.

“The book includes Persian and English introductions as well as a Persian grammar section,” he added, saying that the English preface contains information on the original location of the inscriptions and the people who used them during the Achaemenid era.

Arfaei who is an Elamite language expert and the founder of the Inscriptions Hall of Iran's National Museum has also translated over 2,500 Persepolis inscriptions, which are housed at the University of Chicago.

His Decree of Cyrus the Great is a detailed account of the inscriptions on the Cyrus Cylinder, considered to be the world's first charter of human rights.

Alla scoperta di Persepoli, by Tiziano Mainier, sabato sera online, 2 July 2009
Riemerge una parte sepolta della città, grazie agli scavi compiuti dagli archeologi italiani. Intervista a Pierfrancesco Callieri, direttore della missione.
An official of the Parsa and Pasargadae Research Center (PPRC) denied the destruction of a stone from the staircase structure in the Council Hall at Persepolis last week.

A block of stone from the northern stairway structure of the Council Hall was removed in the course of a restoration project that had been taking place over the past few weeks, the official, who requested anonymity, told the MNA.

The block was then reinstalled in-situ after deposits of sand and mud were cleaned from the fractures and crevices, he added...

Italian archeologists find commoner’s neighborhoods in Persepolis ,, Venerdì 5 Giugno 2009.
Rome – A joint Iranian-Italian archeological mission in Iran has made an exceptional discovery: the archeologists have found the first traces of the urban settlement in Persepolis, one of the five capitals of the Achaemenid Empire in ancient Persia, the construction of which began in 520 BC under the Emperor Darius the Great and lasted almost seventy years. In an interview with the “Tehran Times”, translated by the magazine “Archeologia Viva” (Giunti Editore), the Italian director of the mission, Pierfrancesco Callieri, professor of Archeology and Iranian Art History at the University of Bologna, affirmed that the new findings at the Persepolis site have furnished initial information on the city and on the neighborhoods where the common people lived. During the course of the excavations of the flat area at the foot of the Great Achaemenid Terrace and about 1 km from here, the team led by Professor Callieri discovered the first traces of a residential area which could correspond to the city of Mattezish, mentioned in the Elamite tablets in Persepolis. During the Achaemenid period (6th- 4th century BC), all the people working for the Imperial Court lived here, from functionaries to workers. Professor Callieri said that in one of the two excavation sites, “we localized a noteworthy structure, probably the walls of one of the building complexes of the city” instead in the other sites the archeologists localized “an artisan area with an oven and various waste ditches, surely connected to the work activities of the area as we found various ceramic pieces but also fragments of animal bones”.
Achaemenid Persian Griffin Capital at Persepolis, Posted by Patrick Hunt, Archaeolog, May 4, 2009.
One of the most impressive yet enigmatic surviving capitals from Persepolis is an Achaemenid masterpiece: the double griffin protome capital. On the one hand, there ought to be more than one of these griffin capitals from before the 330 BCE destruction, although it seems that only this extant one is intact. On the other hand, it is possible that only one was sculpted, since no other griffin protome fragments exist from Persepolis. A few archaeological accounts suggest its emplaced context at Persepolis was from the Apadana, although this cannot be proven since only 13 of the 36 (arranged 6 x 6) columns have survived, given the “conflagration…and catastrophic end” recorded under Alexander. More than a few scholars, including Wiesehöfer, maintain that numerous structures at Persepolis were not destroyed in 330 but only parts thereof and that some use continued thereafter.

South Korean Diplomat Arrested with a Stolen Stone Relief from Persepolis while Leaving Iran, CAIS NEWS: Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World, 04 March 2009.
LONDON, (CAIS) -- The 3rd Secretary of the South Korean Embassy in Iran has reportedly tried to smuggle a priceless relic dating to the Achaemenid dynastic era out of Iran.

Customs officials in Shiraz Airport found the relic in the South Korean diplomat's luggage during check-in, before the diplomat succeeded in transporting the priceless relic of Persepolis, Persian daily Tabnak reported on Tuesday.

Iranian Police, however, had to release the diplomat due to his diplomatic immunity, the report added.

“Customs officials in Shiraz Airport found an Achaemenid relief depicting the top section of head of an Achaemenid soldier, weigh 2kg from Persepolis in the luggage of the 3rd Secretary of the South Korean Embassy in Iran,” Shiraz public and revolutionary prosecutor, Jaber Banshi told IRNA.

“The relic has been delivered to the provincial cultural heritage office, but no cultural official has filed a complaint so far,” he added.

The S. Korean embassy declined to comment on the issue when contacted by Press TV.

The customs officials sent the stolen piece back to the ruins of Persepolis.

It is not clear how the diplomat obtained the relic, despite the claim by IRNA that the he picked it up while visiting the Persepolis.

Marvdasht Public Prosecutor's Office: The Case of Persepolis Robbery and its' Destruction Still is Open, 03 March 2009. CAIS: The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
LONDON, (CAIS) -- The case of destruction of part of Persepolis and the theft of an artefact are still open, and it is under investigation by the Marvdasht Public Prosecutor's Office, reported the Persian service of ISNA.

Until now 16 people from the excavation group and Security Unit office have been arrested, questioned and released on bail pending further investigations. The case was initially opened as the result of public and Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organisation's complaints, said Kazam Akrami from the Marvdasht Public Prosecutor's Office.

Akrami with commented on the lack of CCTV in the area and said we have interrogated security officers who are responsible for safeguarding the site and they have relinquished themselves from any responsibility, since they claim the robbed grave and its' contents were not reported to the Security Unit by the archaeologists, therefore the site was not included in the protection coverage zone.?

Afshin Yazdani from Archaeological Research Centre, back in January asserted that the Security Unit was aware of their excavation and the discovery of the grave.

It is not clear whether the archaeologists from the Iran Archaeological Research Centre had a duty to report their findings to the security unit, or if they had reported it, the security unit are denying their claim.

The robbed grave is only 100 meters away from their station.

The theft and destruction of the site took place on 17th January, after the discovery of an Achaemenid dynastic grave by archaeologists. The grave contained a skeleton, a ceramic beaker and a burner. The beaker was contained a grave offering which is now missing.

Archaeologists have found broken pottery near the grave, which could be the beaker - maybe it was broken in order to remove its' contents. Currently the broken pieces are in process of being reassembled and it is now 80% complete, to verify if they belong to the missing beaker. The point of reference is the pictures taken by archaeologists on the day of crime.

This is not the first time thieves have targeted Persepolis. The most puzzling theft from Persepolis was taken place in March 2006, when police seized a double-bull-headed capital in Kerman. The Persepolitan-capital was discovered in Kerman by vigilantes and reported to police. The artefact was bound to leave Iran for West. Neither, the ICHHTO, Persepolis officials or any of the Islamic Republic's state controlled news agencies had reported the robbery -- nor did they offer any explanation as how such a colossal capital which weighs few tones could be removed from Persepolis complex without the officials' knowledge.

Wonders of Iran: Persepolis, Sat, 07 Feb 2009 17:47:14 GMT. By Tamara Ebrahimpour, Press TV, Tehran
["As German philosopher Friedrich Hegel once said, "The principle of development begins with the history of Persia; this constitutes therefore the beginning of history."...]

Experts excavating ancient water wells in Parsa, Tuesday, January 13, 2009, Tehran Times
["TEHRAN -- A team of archaeologists are currently excavating water wells of the ancient city of Parsa near the Persepolis...."]

Tomb of Cyrus sheds its metal cage, Thu, 18 Dec 2008 11:59:46 GMT
["The restoration of the tomb of the founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus the Great, has been completed and its metal scaffolding removed. After three stages of restoration, the structure stands strong and will not sustain any further damage. The work on the historical site has gained UNESCO approval..."]

Parsa emerges from the shadow of Persepolis, by Hamid Golpira, Mehr News Agency, Tehran, 12/01/08
["The ancient town of Parsa has begun to emerge from the shadows of Persepolis. An Iranian-Italian joint archaeological team has brought to light the first remains of the town of Parsa, which was the residential area of commoners just outside the palaces of Persepolis..."]

A five-centimeter fragment of a blue ware in the form of a wing is one of most
important artifacts unearthed by the Iranian-Italian joint archaeological team
during their latest excavation at the ancient town of Parsa near Persepolis.

Achaemenid era "eye stones" used either as the
eyes of statues or as amulets to repel the evil eye have been
discovered by the Iranian-Italian joint archaeological team during
their latest excavation at the ancient town of Parsa near

Remains of a wall were brought to light at one of the trenches dug by the Iranian-Italian joint archaeological team searching for the residential area of commoners outside the palaces of Persepolis. It is believed to be one of the boundary walls of the city of Parsa.

"Iran, The Forgotten Glory", Nov 30, 2008,
["IRAN, The Forgotten Glory" is an attempt to recapture the story of the glory of the ancient Persian Empire in a documentary film for the first time. Taking the audience on a 3000 year old journey, to visit the greatest empire of the Mesopotamian civilization, The Achaemenids, who’s territory extended from India to the boarders of Europe...."]

Persepolis studies yield new findings,Sun, 26 Oct 2008 10:35:13 GMT (PRESS TV)
["...Twenty five objects were also unearthed in the area as a result of the current studies. The discovery included jewels, ancient weapons, and pieces left over from broken statues, potteries and azure plates..."]
Iranian, Italian archaeologists excavating Persepolis
TEHRAN, Oct. 19 (Mehr News Agency)

In a blog entry entitled Let’s Abandon Achaemenid Studies, Jona Lendering reviews three recent volumes on the Achaemenid Empire aimed at general audiences (and he's not pleased):
1. Kaveh Farrokh’s Shadows in the Desert;
2. Tom Holland’s Persian Fire;
3. Bruce Lincoln’s, Religion, Empire, and Torture.

Persepolis under modern tech excavation
Sun, 04 May 2008 14:36:54 Press TV

Iran: Discovery of one of the ten largest Achaemenid buildings with a structure similar to Persepolis
02/08/08 (
A report on this year's excavations at Noorabad, Mamasani, Fars province.

Achaemenid Soldier Fetched in London
Tehran, 27 October 2007 (CHN Foreign Desk)
Despite all oppositions made by Iran regarding the sale of the head of the Achaemenid soldier, it has been sold in Christie’s auction in London.
And see also: The Denyse Berend Persepolis relief fragment is for sale at Christie's, and Iran boycotts bas-relief sale at Christie's, and UNESCO not Support Iran to Retrieve its Achaemenid Soldier, and IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL, 1st February 2007. B e f o r e : THE HON. MR JUSTICE EADY. Between: The Islamic Republic of Iran, Claimant - and - Denyse Berend, Defendant: HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions, 1st February 2007, and British court's decision on the ownership of the Persepolis relief fragment bought in 1974 by Denyse Berend, as well as earlier comments by Derek Fincham, of Illicit Cultural Property: No renvoi in Iran v. Berend, and Martin George, of ConflictOfLaws.Net: Rejecting Renvoi: Iran v Berend.

Austria to help restore Persepolis
Sun, 07 Oct 2007 08:18:4.
"With a joint project estimated to cost 30 million euros, Iran and Austria will restore Iran's foremost historic site, Persepolis."

The Denyse Berend Persepolis relief fragment is for sale at Christie's again at the October 25th Antiquities auction (see the articles below from January and February 200). Apparently it has been suggested that the Iranian government purchase it, and aparently the suggestion is being rejected:

Iran boycotts bas-relief sale at Christie's
Sun, 02 Sep 2007 11:14:25 (PressTV).


UNESCO not Support Iran to Retrieve its Achaemenid Soldier
Tehran, 3 September 2007 (CHN Foreign Desk).

Iran's Apadana column restored
Wed, 18 Jul 2007 19:47:36 (PressTV).

Website featuring Achaemenid art
Thu, 07 Jun 2007 18:37:05 (PressTV).

International Attempt for Cleaning up Lichen from Persepolis
ehran, 13 May 2007 (CHN Foreign Desk).

"Iran in conjunction with UNESCO has called an international cooperation for cleaning up the lichen from body of Persepolis World Heritage Site." [Nicely illustrated]

Persepolis outdoor museum to be opened
Thu, 22 Mar 2007 22:52:10. © Press TV 2007.

"A new outdoor museum in the ancient city of Persepolis, in southwestern Iran, is scheduled to open during Nowruz holidays, showcasing items belonging to Iran's Achaemenid and Sassanid eras."

A Glimpse of Things to Come
BY A STAFF REPORTER Friday, February 16, 2007 8:42:24 IST. © 2007, Cybernoon.

"... The Jeejeebhoy Dadabhoy Agiary at Navy Nagar was the scene of chaos yesterday. The ancient city of Persepolis, Persia, is being re-created in all its glory and splendour ..."

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL, 1st February 2007. B e f o r e : THE HON. MR JUSTICE EADY. Between: The Islamic Republic of Iran, Claimant - and - Denyse Berend, Defendant: HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT
England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions, 1st February 2007.

British court's decision on the ownership of the Persepolis relief fragment bought in 1974 by Denyse Berend.
Update: Derek Fincham, of Illicit Cultural Property, comments on the case : No renvoi in Iran v. Berend.
Update: Martin George, of ConflictOfLaws.Net, comments on the case : Rejecting Renvoi: Iran v Berend.

Ancient Middle East fascinates Mexican museum goers
Reuters, Fri Feb 2, 2007 11:44 AM GMT

"MEXICO CITY, Feb 2 (Reuters Life!) - Fascinated by cultures as old as their own, Mexicans are pouring into museum exhibitions in wonder at ancient Middle Eastern artefacts never before seen in the Western Hemisphere ... A stone plaque inscribed in cuneiform script from the ancient city of Persepolis, destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BC, is one of the highlights. 'I didn't know Iran had such fabulous stuff, like gold cups and statues,' said retired clerk Sergio Zavala, 68, on his fourth visit to the Persia display. 'I always used to think of Iran and Iraq just as places of conflict,' he said ..."

Persépolis, arquitectura celestial o terrenal? by Manel Garcia Sanchez.
Preprint of an article to appear in AZARA, PEDRO; FRONTISI-DUCROUX, FRANÇOISE; LURI, GREGORIO (eds.), Arquitecturas celestiales, Actas del congreso internacional celebrado en el Centro de Cultura Contemporánea de Barcelona, 14-16 de septiembre de 2006 (sous presse, 2007).
Published online at Achemenet.

"Persepolis, one of the Achaemenid empire capitals has been seen as a secret and ritual city, designed for the celebration of the Zoroastrian New Year Festival or Now Ruz on the vernal equinox. The silence of the classic authors, of the biblical books and the ancient near east tablets, as well as the majestic relieves in which the royal hero fights against bestiaries, which are the symbol of the Evil Spirit, had been used as an evidence to confirm that suggestive hypothesis. Nevertheless, if we interpret the Persepolitan iconography in the light of what we know about the religion and the ideology of the Achaemenids and if we do not find dark means in the silences of the sources, we find that the design of the city responds more to a political, ideological and earthly functionality than a wish of reflecting a celestial architecture..."

London Court to Officially Announce its Verdict to Iran
Cultural Heritage News, Iran, 27 January 2007

"In a formal statement, London’s High Court will be delivering its recent ruling on bas-relief of the Achaemenid soldier, which was announced on Jan. 19, 2007, to Iran in two weeks.

According to Omid Ghanami, director of the Legal Department of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), the Organization is waiting to receive the written verdict to make follow-up decisions. He also said that Iran wills take actions against the court’s ruling if given the right to object to the final decree..."

Court of London Ignores Iran’s Ownership of Achaemenid Bas-relief
Cultural Heritage News, Iran, Mon Jan 22, 2007

Iran loses court battle over ancient carving
Reuters, Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:03 PM GMT

"LONDON (Reuters) - Iran on Friday lost a legal battle against an 85-year-old French widow over a piece of carved limestone from the ancient Persian capital of Persepolis.

London's High Court ruled in favour of Denyse Berend, who bought the artefact in 1974, in a case brought against her by the Iranian government which sought to reclaim the relief fragment..."

Museums face fallout in fight over carving
By Stephanie Condron
Last Updated: 2:35am GMT 17/01/2007

"A stone carving of the head of a guardsman from the ancient palace of Persian kings at Persepolis is at the centre of a High Court battle that could have worldwide repercussions for museums and art collections.

For more than 30 years, the 5th century BC relief has been in the possession of a Frenchwoman who bought it at an auction in New York in 1974 and displayed it on her living room wall..."

No ban on Persepolis in Iran: official
Tuesday, January 16, 2007 - ©2005

"LONDON, January 16 (IranMania) - Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization’s Research Center has said that enthusiasts, cameramen and researchers cannot be banned from entering historical monument of Takht-e Jamshid (Persepolis) in Fars province.

Seyyed Taha Hashemi told ISNA on the sidelines of the inaugural ceremony for Research Week that the competence of cultural and tourism stations is determined by the fact that they remain vigilant against any threat and at the same time they permit the entry of researchers and visitors to the sites..."

Persepolis to Host Biggest Horse Riding Festival in Iran
Cultural Heritage News, Iran - Jan 15, 2007

"Tehran, 15 January 2007 (CHN Foreign Desk) -- The biggest horse riding festival in Iran will be held in April/May 2007 close to Persepolis historic complex in Iran’s Fars province under the joint cooperation of sport tourism committee of Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), Iran’s Equestrian Federation, and UNESCO..."

Fate of Iran's Bolaghi Valley hangs in balance
Monday, January 15, 2007 - ©2005

"LONDON, January 15 (IranMania) - The reservoir of the Sivand Dam will be filled, pending archaeologists’ decision at a seminar to be held in Tehran on January 20, the Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) Research Center director said at a press conference, MNA reported.

“All the archaeologists that participated in the rescue excavations of the Bolaghi Valley will present their reports during the seminar. If the reports indicate that the rescue excavations have been completed, the filling of the dam will begin,” Taha Hashemi added..."

Red stains removed from Iran's Persepolis
Thursday, January 04, 2007 - ©2005

"LONDON, January 4 (IranMania) - A team of experts from the Parseh and Pasargadae Foundation announced that they had successfully removed the red stains from the floor and walls of the Hadish Palace of Xerxes in Persepolis, MNA reported.
The stains were left by a film crew shooting a TV series in late December that used red liquid to represent blood in a scene..."

Leading train through tunnel, only way to save Naqsh-e Rostam
Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran - Jan 1, 2007
After studying different alternatives for saving the cultural landscape of the historic site of Naqsh-e Rostam against railway construction, experts of Parse-Pasargadae Research Center concluded that the most effective way to prevent the railway from intruding the historic landscape of this Achaemenid site is to construct a 6-kilometer-long tunnel from Sivand to Shoul village and direct the train through the tunnel.

Announcing this news, Hassan Rahsaz, an expert in Parse-Pasargadae Research Center explained that the tunnel could be constructed at a distance of 4 to 5 kilometers from Naqsh-e Rostam without posing any threat to its ancient structures..."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

News: Talk at Illinois Wesleyan University

Professor Studying Embattled Tablets Being Returned to Iran to Speak for Ides of November
Oct. 26, 2010
Illinois Wesleyan News
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University will welcome Professor of Assyriology Matthew Stolper on Monday, November 15 at 4 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium of The Ames Library (1 Ames Plaza, Bloomington). His talk, titled “Shattered Window on the Persian Empire: Rescuing the Persepolis Fortification Archive,” is sponsored by the Greek & Roman Studies Department, Eta Sigma Phi and the Classics Club, and is part of the Ides Lecture & Performance Series.

The director of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, Stolper studies clay tablets discovered in the ancient ruins of Persepolis in the 1930s by a University of Chicago expedition. Stolper is hoping to make the tens of thousands of the Persepolis clay tablets, which recorded the daily rule of Achemenid Persian kings from 550-330 B.C., available online. American survivors of terrorist bombings are asking Federal courts to award them possession of the Persepolis Fortification tablets to satisfy punitive judgments against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“There is only one Persepolis Fortification Archive,” Stolper said. “It’s the richest, densest, most complex source of information on the languages, society, institutions, and art of the Achaemenid Persian Empire.  Breaking it up or losing it entirely without harvesting all of this information would leave a tragic wound in the history of civilization.”

For additional information about the speaker or the Ides series, contact the Greek and Roman Studies Department at (309) 556-3173.
Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960

Go to the chronicle of news on Persepolis.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Persepolis sequence from The Human Adventure (again)

In June I posted a link to an online version of the Persepolis sequence from The Human Adventure.  Shortly thereafter the OI asserted its copyright and the clip was removed.  Yesterday the Oriental Institute launched its own Youtube Channel.  It's first public offering is the complete film.

This 1935 film, produced by the Oriental Institute of the University of  Chicago under the supervision of Dr. James Henry Breasted was written  and told by his son, Charles Breasted.  Though we no longer think about  archaeology in the same way, this film gives us insight into the early  days of the field.      

Data (minimal) on the Human adventure is at IMDb, and at Turner Classic Movies.

And see a Review of a Review of The Human Adventure.

The Iranian sequence begins at 48:10

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Online review of L’archive des Fortifications de Persépolis

 AJA Online Publications: Book Reviews

L’archive des Fortifications de Persépolis: État des questions et perspectives de recherches. Actes du colloque organisé au Collège de France, 3–4 novembre 2006
Edited by Pierre Briant, Wouter F.M. Henkelman, and Matthew W. Stolper (Persika 12). Pp. 574, figs. 126, pls. 11, charts 8, tables 28, plans 2, map 1. De Boccard, Paris 2008. €117. ISBN 978-7018-0249-7 (paper).

Reviewed by Bruno Jacobs

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A personal take on the project

Persepolis Fortification Archive Project from Joshua Elek's Me Things, The Stuff I Think...
...I've been trying to get in on the project for a few months now. Originally I heard that I could get in on it, and then I heard that there might not be enough room on the machines to help. I kept asking and today I got an email saying that I can start tomorrow. Which means that tomorrow morning at 8:00, I'll be walking into the Oriental Institute to start editing the photos of these documents hoping to help preserve the Persepolis Administrative Archives. Man, this is cool. I can't wait to start.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

New in ARTA

Pierre Amiet, Le palais de Darius à Suse: Problèmes et hypothèses. ARTA 2010.001
La publication finale des travaux de la Délégation archéologique française en Iran, le Palais de Darius à Suse, était très attendue. Elle a été conçue par le chef de mission, son maître d’oeuvre, comme une synthèse définitive, fondée sur des recherches pluridisciplinaires conduites avec de grands moyens, selon les procédés les plus modernes, avec une équipe de collaborateurs soumis à ses directives. Des personnalités indépendantes ont été associées à cette publication. Or les observations archéologiques nouvelles ont reçu des interprétations qui en sont comme imposées, en éliminant toute autre. Elles posent cependant des problèmes qu’il importe d’exploiter, et d’ouvrir la voie à des vues différentes...

Mark B. Garrison, Robert K. Ritner, From the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, 2: Seals with Egyptian Hieroglyphic Inscriptions at Persepolis. ARTA 2010.002
Abstract — This article publishes six seals that carry Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions, and one seal that potentially employs Egyptian hieroglyphic signs in a decorative manner, from the Persepolis Fortification archive. These seals are the first evidence for the occurrence of Egyptian hieroglyphic script on seals at Persepolis. The seals raise various issues concerning glyptic use and production within southwestern Iran during the reign of Darius I.

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