Dagger
Overview
A dagger is a fighting knife
Fighting knife
A fighting knife is a knife with a blade designed to inflict a lethal injury in a physical confrontation between two or more individuals at very short range...

 with a sharp point designed or capable of being used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon. The design dates to human prehistory, and daggers have been used throughout human experience to the modern day in close combat
Close combat
*Close combat is a generic term for both Close Quarters Battle and Hand to hand combat.*Mêlée generally refers to disorganized close combat.*CQB is an acronym for Close Quarters Battle, such as that which occurs in urban warfare....

 confrontations. Many ancient cultures used adorned daggers in ritual and ceremonial purposes, a trend which continues to the present time in the form of art knives. The distinctive shape and historic usage of the dagger have made it iconic and symbolic.






Over the years, the term 'dagger' has been used to describe a wide variety of thrusting knives, including knives that feature only a single cutting edge, such as the European rondel dagger or the Persian pesh-kabz
Pesh-kabz
Pesh-kabz, Pesh-quabz, Pesh-kabj, or Pish-ghabz is the name of an Indo-Persian-Afghan knife used in Safavid Persia, Mughal India, and some nations of central Asia...

, or, in some instances, no cutting edge at all, such as the stiletto
Stiletto
A stiletto is a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point, intended primarily as a stabbing weapon. The stiletto blade's narrow cross-section and acuminated tip reduces friction upon entry, allowing the blade to penetrate deeply...

 of the Renaissance.
Encyclopedia
A dagger is a fighting knife
Fighting knife
A fighting knife is a knife with a blade designed to inflict a lethal injury in a physical confrontation between two or more individuals at very short range...

 with a sharp point designed or capable of being used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon. The design dates to human prehistory, and daggers have been used throughout human experience to the modern day in close combat
Close combat
*Close combat is a generic term for both Close Quarters Battle and Hand to hand combat.*Mêlée generally refers to disorganized close combat.*CQB is an acronym for Close Quarters Battle, such as that which occurs in urban warfare....

 confrontations. Many ancient cultures used adorned daggers in ritual and ceremonial purposes, a trend which continues to the present time in the form of art knives. The distinctive shape and historic usage of the dagger have made it iconic and symbolic.






Characteristics

Over the years, the term 'dagger' has been used to describe a wide variety of thrusting knives, including knives that feature only a single cutting edge, such as the European rondel dagger or the Persian pesh-kabz
Pesh-kabz
Pesh-kabz, Pesh-quabz, Pesh-kabj, or Pish-ghabz is the name of an Indo-Persian-Afghan knife used in Safavid Persia, Mughal India, and some nations of central Asia...

, or, in some instances, no cutting edge at all, such as the stiletto
Stiletto
A stiletto is a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point, intended primarily as a stabbing weapon. The stiletto blade's narrow cross-section and acuminated tip reduces friction upon entry, allowing the blade to penetrate deeply...

 of the Renaissance. However, over the last hundred years or so, authorities have recognized that the dagger, in its contemporary form, has come to incorporate certain definable characteristics, including a short blade with a sharply-tapered point, a central spine or fuller
Fuller (weapon)
A fuller is a rounded or beveled groove or slot in the flat side of a blade . A fuller is often used to lighten the blade, much in the way that an I-beam shape allows a given amount of strength to be achieved with less material...

, and two cutting edges sharpened the full length of the blade, or nearly so. Most daggers also feature a full crossguard to keep the hand from riding forwards onto the sharpened blade edges. Another distinctive feature of the modern dagger is that it is designed to position the blade horizontally when using a conventional palm grip, enabling the user to slash right or left as well as thrust the blade between an opponent's ribs. The twin full-length edges enable the user to make broad slashes (cuts) using either a forehand or backhand arm movement, while the sharp, acutely-pointed tip makes the knife an effective thrusting or stabbing weapon. This versatility distinguishes the dagger from more specialized thrusting knives, such as the stiletto
Stiletto
A stiletto is a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point, intended primarily as a stabbing weapon. The stiletto blade's narrow cross-section and acuminated tip reduces friction upon entry, allowing the blade to penetrate deeply...

.

Early history

Much like battle axe
Battle axe
A battle axe is an axe specifically designed for combat. Battle axes were specialized versions of utility axes...

s, daggers evolved out of prehistoric tool
Tool
A tool is a device that can be used to produce an item or achieve a task, but that is not consumed in the process. Informally the word is also used to describe a procedure or process with a specific purpose. Tools that are used in particular fields or activities may have different designations such...

s. In Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 times, daggers were made of materials such as flint
Flint
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

, ivory
Ivory
Ivory is a term for dentine, which constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals, when used as a material for art or manufacturing. Ivory has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes, joint tubes, piano keys and...

 or bone
Bone
Bones are rigid organs that constitute part of the endoskeleton of vertebrates. They support, and protect the various organs of the body, produce red and white blood cells and store minerals. Bone tissue is a type of dense connective tissue...

 and were used as weapons since the earliest periods of human civilization. The earliest metal daggers are of Beaker copper
Beaker culture
The Bell-Beaker culture , ca. 2400 – 1800 BC, is the term for a widely scattered cultural phenomenon of prehistoric western Europe starting in the late Neolithic or Chalcolithic running into the early Bronze Age...

 and appear in the early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

, in the 3rd millennium BC
3rd millennium BC
The 3rd millennium BC spans the Early to Middle Bronze Age.It represents a period of time in which imperialism, or the desire to conquer, grew to prominence, in the city states of the Middle East, but also throughout Eurasia, with Indo-European expansion to Anatolia, Europe and Central Asia. The...

, predating the Bronze Age sword
Bronze Age sword
Bronze Age swords appear from around the 17th century BC, in the Black Sea region and the Aegean, evolving out of the dagger. They are replaced by the Iron Age sword during the early part of the 1st millennium BC....

.

From pre-dynastic Egypt, daggers were adorned as ceremonial objects
Ceremonial weapon
A ceremonial weapon is an object used for ceremonial purposes to display power or authority. They are often used in parades, and as part of dress uniforms.Although they are descended from weapons used in actual combat, they are not normally used as such...

 with golden hilts and later even more ornate and varied construction. One early silver dagger was recovered with midrib design. Traditionally, some military and naval officers wore dress daggers as symbols of power, and modern soldiers are still equipped with combat knives
Combat knife
A combat knife is a fighting knife designed solely for military use and primarily intended for hand-to-hand or close combat fighting.Since the end of trench warfare, most military combat knives have been secondarily designed for utility use in addition to their original role as close-quarter combat...

 and knife bayonet
Knife bayonet
A knife bayonet is a knife which can be used both as a bayonet, fighting or utility knife. The knife bayonet became the almost universal form of bayonet in the 20th century due to its versatility and effectiveness...

s.
Copper daggers of Early Minoan III were recovered at Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

.

In ancient Egypt, daggers were usually made of copper or bronze, while royalty had gold weapons. The 1924 opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun's mummy
On February 12, 1924, British Egyptologist Howard Carter and his team removed the lid on the third and last sarcophagus of the burial chamber in tomb KV62 revealing the mummy of Tutankhamun...

 revealed two daggers, one with a gold blade, and one of smelted iron. Iron ore was not found in Egypt, making the iron dagger rare, and the context suggests that the iron dagger was valued on a level equal to that of its ceremonial gold counterpart.

One of the earliest objects made of smelted iron dates is a dagger dating to before 2000 BC, found in a context that suggests it was treated as an ornamental object of great value. Found in a Hattic royal tomb dated about 2500 BC, at Alaca Höyük in northern Anatolia, the dagger has a smelted iron blade and a bronze handle.

Antiquity

The artisans and blacksmiths of Iberia
Iberia
The name Iberia refers to three historical regions of the old world:* Iberian Peninsula, in Southwest Europe, location of modern-day Portugal and Spain** Prehistoric Iberia...

 in what is now southern Spain and southwestern France produced various iron daggers and swords of high quality from the 5th to the 3rd century BC, in ornamentation and patterns influenced by Greek, Punic (Carthaginian), and Phoenician culture. The exceptional purity of Iberian
Iberians
The Iberians were a set of peoples that Greek and Roman sources identified with that name in the eastern and southern coasts of the Iberian peninsula at least from the 6th century BC...

 iron and the sophisticated method of forging, which included cold hammering, produced double-edged weapons of excellent quality. One can find technologically advanced designs such as folding knives rusted among the artifacts of many Second Iberian Iron Age cremation burials or in Roman Empire excavations all around Spain and the Mediterranean. Iberian infantrymen carried several types of iron daggers, most of them based on shortened versions of double-edged swords, but the true Iberian dagger had a triangular-shaped blade. Iberian daggers and swords were later adopted by Hannibal and his Carthaginian armies. The Lusitanii
Lusitanians
The Lusitanians were an Indo-European people living in the Western Iberian Peninsula long before it became the Roman province of Lusitania . They spoke the Lusitanian language which might have been Celtic. The modern Portuguese people see the Lusitanians as their ancestors...

, a pre-Celtic people dominating the lands northwest of Iberia, successfully held off the Roman Empire for many years with a variety of innovative tactics and light weapons, including iron-bladed short spears and daggers modeled after Iberian patterns.

During the Roman Empire, legionaries were issued a pugio
Pugio
The pugio was a dagger used by Roman soldiers as a sidearm. It seems likely that the pugio was intended as an auxiliary weapon, but its exact purpose to the soldier remains unknown for sure...

(from the Latin pugnō, or “fight”), a double-edged iron thrusting dagger with a blade of 7-12 inches. The design and fabrication of the pugio was taken directly from Iberian daggers and short swords; the Romans even adopted the triangular-bladed Iberian dagger, which they called the parazonium. Like the gladius
Gladius
Gladius was the Latin word for sword, and is used to represent the primary sword of Ancient Roman soldiers. Early ancient Roman swords were similar to those used by the Greeks. From the 3rd century BC, the Romans adopted swords similar to those used by the Celtiberians and others during the early...

, the pugio was most often used as a thrusting (stabbing weapon). As an extreme close-quarter combat weapon, the pugio was the Roman soldier's last line of defense. When not in battle, the pugio served as a convenient utility knife.

Middle Ages

The term dagger appears only in the Late Middle Ages
Late Middle Ages
The Late Middle Ages was the period of European history generally comprising the 14th to the 16th century . The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern era ....

, reflecting the fact that while the dagger had been known in antiquity, it had disappeared during the Early Middle Ages, replaced by the hewing knife or seax
Seax
Seax in Old English means knife or cutting tool. The name of the roofer's tool, the zax, is a development from this word...

.

The dagger re-appeared in the 12th century as the "knightly dagger" and was developed into a common arm and tool for civilian use by the late medieval period.
The earliest known depiction of such a knightly dagger is the so-called "Guido relief" inside the Grossmünster
Grossmünster
The Grossmünster is a Romanesque-style church in Zurich, Switzerland. It is one of the three major churches in the city . The core of the present building near the banks of the Limmat River was constructed on the site of a Carolingian church, which was, according to legend, originally commissioned...

 of Zürich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 (ca. 1120). A number of depictions of the fully developed knightly dagger are found in the Morgan Bible
Morgan Bible
The Morgan Bible is a medieval picture bible of 44 folios. It is also called the Morgan Bible of Louis IX, the Book of Kings, the Crusader Bible, and the Maciejowski Bible...

 (ca. 1240).
The Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 term dague appears to have referred to these weapons in the 13th century, alongside other terms such as poignal and basilard. The Middle English dagger is used from the 1380s.

During this time, the dagger was often employed in the role of a secondary defense weapon
Companion weapon
The term companion weapon is used in historical European martial arts to refer to an item used in conjunction with the larger weapon in the non-sword hand while fencing with a rapier or sword. The popular companion weapon forms include:*sword and buckler...

 in close combat
Close combat
*Close combat is a generic term for both Close Quarters Battle and Hand to hand combat.*Mêlée generally refers to disorganized close combat.*CQB is an acronym for Close Quarters Battle, such as that which occurs in urban warfare....

. The knightly dagger evolved into the larger baselard
Baselard
The baselard is a historical type of dagger or short sword of the Late Middle Ages.In modern use by antiquarians, the term baselard is mostly reserved for a type of 14th...

 knife in the 14th century. The baselard was considered an intermediate between a short sword and a long dagger, and became popular also as a civilian weapon. Sloane MS. 2593 (ca. 1400) records a song satirizing the use of oversized baselard knives as fashion accessoires.

In the Late Middle Ages, knives with blade designs that emphasized thrusting attacks, such as the stiletto
Stiletto
A stiletto is a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point, intended primarily as a stabbing weapon. The stiletto blade's narrow cross-section and acuminated tip reduces friction upon entry, allowing the blade to penetrate deeply...

, became increasingly popular, and some thrusting knives commonly referred to as 'daggers' ceased to have a cutting edge. This was probably due to the custom of fighting in plate armour
Plate armour
Plate armour is a historical type of personal armour made from iron or steel plates.While there are early predecessors such the Roman-era lorica segmentata, full plate armour developed in Europe during the Late Middle Ages, especially in the context of the Hundred Years' War, from the coat of...

, where cutting attacks were ineffective and focus was laid instead on thrusts with narrow blades aimed at armour plate intersections (or the eye slits of the helmet visor). These late medieval thrusting weapons are sometimes classed by the shape of their hilt as either roundel, bollock
Bollock dagger
The bollock dagger or ballock knife is a type of dagger with a distinctively shaped shaft, with two oval swellings at the guard resembling male genitalia . The guard is often in one piece with the wooden grip, and reinforced on top with a shaped metal washer...

 or ear
Ear Dagger
An ear dagger is a relatively rare and exotic form of dagger that was used during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is so named because the pommel of the dagger has a very distinctive shape, in some cases not unlike a human ear...

 daggers.
The term dagger is coined in this time, as are the Early Modern German equivalents dolch (tolch) and degen (tegen).
In the German school of fencing
German school of fencing
The German school of fencing is the historical system of combat taught in the Holy Roman Empire in the Late Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern periods , as described in the Fechtbücher written at the time...

, Johannes Liechtenauer (Ms. 3227a) and his successors (specifically Andres Lignizer in Cod. 44 A 8
Cod. 44 A 8
Cod. 44 A 8 also known as MS 1449, Bibliotheca dell'Academica Nazionale dei Lincei e Corsiniana, is a Fechtbuch compiled by Peter von Danzig in 1452. Danzig was a 15th century German Fencing master...

)) taught fighting with the dagger.

These techniques in some respects resemble modern knife fighting, but emphasized thrusting strokes almost exclusively, instead of slashes and cuts. When used offensively, a standard attack frequently employed the reverse or icepick grip
Icepick Grip
The icepick grip, otherwise known as the "reverse grip" or pakal in Filipino martial arts, is a technique used in close range knifefighting, in which the blade protrudes from the bottom of the hand, rather than the top of the closed fist, resembling the way one would normally use an icepick for...

, stabbing downward with the blade to increase thrust and penetrative force. This was done primarily because the blade point frequently had to penetrate or push apart an opponent's steel chain mail
Chain Mail
"Chain Mail" is a single by Mancunian band James, released in March 1986 by Sire Records, the first after the band defected from Factory Records. The record was released in two different versions, as 7" single and 12" EP, with different artworks by John Carroll and, confusingly, under different...

 or plate armor in order to inflict an injury. The disadvantage of employing the medieval dagger in this manner was that it could easily be blocked by a variety of techniques, most notably by a block with the weaponless arm while simultaneously attacking with a weapon held in the right hand. Another disadvantage was the reduction in effective blade reach to the opponent when using a reverse grip. As the wearing of armor fell out of favor, dagger fighting techniques began to evolve which emphasized the use of the dagger with a conventional or forward grip, while the reverse or icepick grip was retained when attacking an unsuspecting opponent from behind, such as an assassination.

Renaissance and Early Modern era

The dagger was very popular as a fencing and personal defense weapon in 17th and 18th century Spain, where it was referred to as the daga or puñal. During the Renaissance Age the dagger was used as part of everyday dress, and daggers were the only weapon commoners were allowed to carry on their person.
In English, the terms poniard and dirk are loaned during the late 16th to early 17th century, the latter in the spelling dork, durk (presumably via Low German, Dutch or Scandinavian dolk, dolch, ultimately from a West Slavic tulich), the modern spelling dirk dating to 18th-century Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

.

Beginning with the 17th century, another form of dagger—the plug bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

 and later the socket bayonet—was used to convert musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

s and other longarms
Long gun
The term long gun is used to describe classes of firearm and cannon with longer barrels than other classes. In small arms, a long gun is designed to be fired braced against the shoulder, in contrast to a handgun, while in artillery a long gun would be contrasted with a howitzer or carronade.-Small...

 into spear
Spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

s by mounting them on the barrel.

Modern daggers (1815 to present)

Daggers achieved public notoriety in the 20th century as ornamental uniform regalia during the Fascist dictatorships of Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany. The resurgence of these dress daggers and accoutrements in post-World War I Germany gave a much needed boost to the flagging fortunes of the metalworking center Solingen. Dress daggers were used by several other countries as well, including Japan but never to the same extent as those worn by the Military and Political bodies of the Third Reich or Fascist Italy. As combat equipment they were carried by many infantry and commando
Commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

 forces during the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. British Commando and other elite units were issued an especially slender dagger, the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife
Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife
The Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife is a double-edged fighting knife resembling a dagger or poignard with a foil grip developed by William Ewart Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes in Shanghai based on concepts which the two men initiated before World War II while serving on the Shanghai Municipal...

, developed by William E. Fairbairn
William E. Fairbairn
William Ewart Fairbairn was a British soldier, police officer and exponent of hand-to-hand combat method, the close combat, for the Shanghai Police between the world wars, and allied special forces in World War II. He developed his own fighting system known as Defendu, as well as other weapons...

 and Eric A. Sykes
Eric A. Sykes
Eric Anthony Sykes , born Eric Anthony Schwabe in Barton on Irwell, Manchester, England. He is most famous for his work with William E. Fairbairn in the development of the eponymous Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife and modern British Close Quarters Battle martial arts during World War II...

 from real-life close-combat experiences gained while serving on the Shanghai Municipal Police Force. The F-S dagger proved very popular with the commandos, who used it primarily for sentry elimination. Some units of the U.S. Marine Corps Raiders
Marine Raiders
The Marine Raiders were elite units established by the United States Marine Corps during World War II to conduct amphibious light infantry warfare, particularly in landing in rubber boats and operating behind the lines...

 in the Pacific were issued a similar fighting dagger, the Marine Raider Stiletto., though the design proved less than successful when used in the type of knife combat encountered in the Pacific theater.

Aside from military forces, most daggers are no longer carried openly, but concealed in clothing. One of the more popular forms of the concealable dagger is the boot knife
Boot knife
A boot knife or a gambler's dagger is a small fixed-blade knife that is designed to be carried in or on a boot. Typically, such a knife is worn on a belt or under a pant leg. If worn around the neck they become a neck knife. Boot knives generally come with a sheath that includes some form of a...

. The boot knife is nothing more than a shortened dagger that is compact enough to be worn on the lower leg, usually by means of a sheath clipped or strapped to a boot or other footwear.

Cultural symbolism

The dagger is symbolically ambiguous. It may be associated with deception, stealth, and/or treachery due to the ease of concealment and surprise that someone could inflict with one on an unsuspecting victim, and indeed many assassinations have been carried out with the use of a dagger, including that of Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

. A cloak and dagger
Cloak and dagger
Cloak and dagger is a term sometimes used to refer to situations involving intrigue, secrecy, espionage, or mystery.Cloak and dagger may refer to:-Music:* Cloak & Dagger * Cloak & Dagger , 1992...

 attack is one in which a deceitful, traitorous, or concealed enemy attacks a person. On the other hand, for some cultures and military organizations the dagger symbolizes courage and daring in combat.
















As an artistic piece

Daggers are a popular form of what is known as the "Art Knife", due in part to the symmetry of the blade. One of the most famous examples is Knifemaker Buster Warenski
Buster Warenski
Buster Warenski was a custom knifemaker from Kimberly, Nevada who made "Art Knives" utilizing gold and other precious metals...

's replication of the gold dagger found in King Tut's tomb. Warenski's dagger was made with a cast gold blade and the knife contained 32 ounces of pure gold in its construction. One of the knives required of an American Bladesmith Society
American Bladesmith Society
The American Bladesmith Society or ABS is an non-profit organization composed of knifemakers whose primary function is to promote the techniques of forging steel blades. The ABS was founded by Knifemaker William F...

 Mastersmith is the construction of an "Art Knife" or a "European style" dagger.







See also

  • Dagger (typography)
    Dagger (typography)
    A dagger, or obelisk. is a typographical symbol or glyph. The term "obelisk" derives from Greek , which means "little obelus"; from meaning "roasting spit"...

  • Knife fight
    Knife fight
    A knife fight is a violent physical confrontation between two or more combatants in which one or more participants is armed with a knife...

  • Push dagger
    Push dagger
    A push dagger is a short-bladed dagger with a "T" handle designed to be grasped in the hand so that the blade protrudes from the front of one's fist, typically between the 2nd and 3rd finger...

  • Stiletto
    Stiletto
    A stiletto is a knife or dagger with a long slender blade and needle-like point, intended primarily as a stabbing weapon. The stiletto blade's narrow cross-section and acuminated tip reduces friction upon entry, allowing the blade to penetrate deeply...

  • List of daggers
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