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Self-Sustained Archaeological Sites

Archaeological Sites as Self-Sustained Resources for Economic Regeneration: Towards the Creation of Living Archaeological Parks on the Islands of Kythera and Antikythera

© W. S. Maney & Son Ltd 2013 DOI 10.1179/1350503313Z.00000000049

Aris Tsaravopoulos
26th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, Hellenic Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports, Greece

Gely Fragou
Independent researcher, Greece

This paper argues that less known archaeological sites on marginalized or non-touristic areas can contribute to the formation of local economies that can benefit from alternative heritage tourism and public participation in the archaeological excavation process. The discussion of a proposal for turning two archaeological sites on the Greek islands of Kythera and Anitkythera respectively (Paleokastro and Kastro) into living archaeological parks serves as an example that highlights the possibilities for the creation of self-sustain- able heritage projects that need not rely on direct state funding.

keywords economic regeneration, island communities, living archaeological parks, Kythera, Antikythera


The potential for archaeological sites to contribute to the economic regeneration of otherwise deprived areas is something widely recognized within the existing heritage management literature (Cernea, 2001; Hampton, 2005). In a country like Greece, where tourism is considered as ‘the heavy industry’ and the rich archaeological herit- age constitutes the component of a thriving heritage industry, the role of antiquities in generating income on both national and local level is vital. Indeed, several univer- sally known archaeological sites that benefit their local regions by sustaining heritage tourism exist in the country, such as the World Heritage sites of the Acropolis in Athens, Mycenae and Ancient Olympia in the Peloponnese, Delphi in Central Greece, Vergina in Northern Greece, and Knossos in Crete.1 In most of these cases, the income derived from the entrance fees would be, in theory, adequate for covering conservation and preservation needs. However, it should be mentioned that, accord- ing to the current national scheme, the income from all archaeological sites and museums in the country is managed by the Greek state services and reallocated on the basis of existing priorities and needs.

At the same time, interventions in the last decades have been made to several archaeological sites in Greece, which lack worldwide reputation and popularity among tourists, through funding schemes provided by European, national, and local governmental bodies — such as the Community Support Framework and the National Strategic Reference Framework. These projects have mostly focused on the preservation and enhancement of archaeological sites as a means to contribute to tourism development and consequently to economic regeneration.2 However, based on personal experience, many of these sites — such as the archaeological site of Karthaia on the island of Kea, which was funded by the Credit Management Fund for the Realization of Archaeological Projects — received funding due to the personal interest of the General Secretary of the Ministry of Culture or the special relations that certain archaeologists in charge had developed with the latter. Even if the aforementioned archaeological sites attracted tourists, the relevant income would not suffice for their conservation, restoration, and promotion, and would not guar- antee their long-term management. It is worth noting that in the case of Karthaia, despite the significant amount of money spent throughout a number of years, the site remains inaccessible as only people who own or can afford to hire a boat can reach it. Meanwhile, throughout Greece there are still numerous sites that remain unex- plored, badly maintained, and inaccessible, almost ‘invisible’, to the wider public. In order for them to play a more significant role within contemporary society and for the sake of their local communities, their management requires a different approach to the one mentioned above.

This paper argues that even less-known archaeological sites on areas that have never previously enjoyed the benefits of heritage tourism can offer opportunities for economic regeneration. Moving away from the dependence on one-off grants that support heritage enhancement projects (instead of providing long-term management solutions) a model that renders archaeological sites self-sustainable through alterna- tive heritage tourism and public participation in the archaeological excavations is suggested. It is the aim of this paper to discuss a specific proposal that could poten- tially contribute towards a revival of the local economy of two communities on the islands of Kythera and Antikythera with the help of their neglected local archaeo- logical sites. The case studies of Paleokastro and Kastro (on the aforementioned islands) will be examined in terms of their capacity to offer public participation in the archaeological excavation as a way to generate funds for self-sustainable preserva- tion. Furthermore, the potential obstacles that have to be overcome in order to materialize such a plan are addressed in the light of the conditions that operate within the heritage management mechanism of the Greek state. The authors deem this approach particularly useful considering today’s difficult economic conditions in the country. The ideas and suggestions presented in this paper have been the result of extensive working experience by the first author (Aris Tsaravopoulos) as the responsible archaeologist for the 26th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Anti- quities on the islands of Kythera and Antikythera (Tsaravopoulos, 2006) and are part of a still evolving proposal (Tsaravopoulos, 2009d and 2010).

Living archaeological parks, economic sustainability, and public participation in archaeological excavations

The suggested proposal is underpinned by three core concepts which are briefly elaborated in this section. These include the idea of a living archaeological park, the concept of the economic sustainability of archaeological sites, and public participa- tion in excavations. The term archaeological park, as opposed to archaeological site, is widely used both internationally (e.g. Fernandes et al., 2008; Gillespie, 2009) and in Greece (Papageorgiou, 2000; Stratouli and Hourmouziadi, 2004) and tends to emphasize both the cultural and natural heritage elements of a particular area or landscape.3 The distinction according to Papageorgiou (2000: 177) lies also on the aim of the relevant parks ‘to function as living organisms for the benefit of the local population and tourists’, and it is exactly this aspect that we choose to emphasize by using the term ‘living archaeological park’ in this paper.

Within this context, the term of economic sustainability is used in order to denote the ways in which archaeological sites can be self-sustained and can also contribute to the economic regeneration of their surrounding communities. This can be achieved by identifying the unique qualities of heritage which will render it competitive follow- ing, for example, the competitive advantage model as advocated in the Greek context by Liwieratos (2009). According to this approach, if heritage is perceived as the com- petitive advantage in the development process of a region, sustainable conservation can be achieved, as tourism and general development will depend on existence and maintenance of heritage (Liwieratos, 2009: 9).

At the same time, the engagement of a wider public with the archaeological process and the active participation of local communities in archaeological projects have been advocated as key concepts in what is today termed as public and community archae- ology (Marshall, 2002; Merriman, 2004; Tully, 2007). One particular aspect of this public involvement, the community archaeology excavations, where the public is offered the opportunity to get actively involved in the excavation of archaeological remains, have been a common place in several countries, such as the UK and the USA (Simpson, 2008). This interesting approach, however, is far from being widely embraced by the Greek archaeological system. It is within this wider scope that the potential public participation in the excavation of two specific case studies on the islands of Kythera and Antikythera is viewed as a form of alternative tourism that could benefit the long-term management of these sites and the economy of the relevant communities. The underlying concept is that public participation, within a sophisticated and informed wider management plan, can contribute towards rendering an archaeological site a financially self-sufficient resource.

The case study of Paleokastro, Kythera

The archaeological site of Paleokastro (= Old Castle) is the largest fortified settlement on the island of Kythera — an island located opposite of Cape Maleas on the south- eastern peninsula of the Peloponnese. Since antiquity, Kythera has been known as the ‘divine (zathea) island of Aphrodite’, an attribute that has attracted visitors and tourists. Paleokastro lies in the centre of the island approximately 4 km from the beach of Palaeopolis, where the ancient harbour of the city, known as Skandeia, was located (Coldstream and Huxley, 1972: 37–40; Petrocheilos, 1984: 64–87). The forti- fied ancient settlement occupies an area larger than 600,000 m2, but today its walls are heavily covered by vegetation and thus are not visible. In addition, many sections of the site have been destroyed by farming activities over the last ten centuries.

The visible remains of Paleokastro comprise of two ancient temples-sanctuaries. The first sanctuary, which was uncovered after excavation works, belongs to a female deity (possibly Aphrodite — although there is no epigraphic evidence, yet, to confirm it) and is located on the top of the hill (Petrocheilos, 2003; 2007; 2009). The afore- mentioned excavation, carried out by Prof. I. Petrocheilos from the University of Ioannina, was the first archaeological intervention on the site. The second temple was dedicated to the Ancient Greek twin-gods ‘Dioskouroi’ (Castor and Pollux) and was located where the Christian church of the Aghioi Anargyroi (Saints Cosmas and Damian) today stands (Figure 1).

The ancient settlement of Paleokastro was fortified at least twice: first during the Archaic period (c. 700–480 bc) and later after the occupation of the island by Athenian general Conon, in 393 bc (Xenophon, Hellenica 4.8.7). Rescue excavations carried out in 2010 and 2011 uncovered an Archaic period grave and parts of the inhabited area of the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods. However, movable findings provide indications for human presence from the Late Geometric period (c. 760–700 bc). The aforementioned small-scale rescue excavations followed after the request of both the Municipality and the Metropolis of Kythera to open a path towards the church of Saints Kosmas and Damian. The excavation was carried out with students and volunteers under the supervision of the 26th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities (EPCA), represented on the island by Aris Tsaravopoulos, and with financial support provided by the Kytherian Research Group, created by Australian Kytherians (Figure 2).

At the moment, the biggest challenge for the Paleokastro site is its inaccessibility due to vegetation overgrowth and, therefore, one of the initial interventions required is for the remains to be revealed. It should be stressed that the development of a management plan for the site of Paleokastro is in progress. The agency responsible for the site is the 26th EPCA which is headquartered in Piraeus, Attica. The Munici- pality of Kythera, on the other hand, has not been involved in the management of the site up to date.

The case study of Kastro, Antikythera

The archaeological site of Kastro is located on Antikythera, a small island situated between Kythera and Crete. The island today counts only twenty-five permanent inhabitants (from almost 700 that used to be there eighty years ago) with a steady process towards depopulation, since there is no prospect in the productive sector. The isolation of this community is further aggravated by its inaccessibility, caused by the inefficiency of the existing harbour which leaves boats exposed to the northern winds. Overall, boat connections to mainland Greece and Crete do not run frequently. There are no traditional settlements or attractive beaches on the island, and therefore visitors are not offered much to see and do on a stay that exceeds two or three days. However, the remains of the fortified ancient city of Aegilia have the potential of becoming a major tourist attraction for visitors from all over the world, and thus to contribute to the island’s revival.

The ancient city of Antikythera (widely known among locals as ‘Kastro’, which means Castle) has had a rich history due to the island’s key position as a sea passage. The first phase of the fortification dates to the fourth century bc in the period of the conflict between the Persian Empire and Alexander the Great’s realm, while during the Hellenistic period the island participated in the pirate activity practised by Cretan cities such as Phalasarna (Bevan et al., 2008; Sekunda, 2009; Tsaravopoulos, 2009c). The ancient city was eventually destroyed by the Romans in 69–67 bc, causing a great hiatus in human activity on the area (Tsaravopoulos, 2009b). The ancient fortification covers an area of approximately 300 acres, containing today the remains of sanctuar- ies, military installations, remnants of houses, water cisterns, and other architectural elements. The archaeological site is extensive, and uncovering all of the remains it encloses would require an effort of many decades. The ‘piratical’ activity testified by ancient sources and archaeological evidence (Jacopi, 1932; Segre, 1933) could very well serve as a point of attraction for those who desire an alternative form of tourism. Indeed, the creation of an archaeological park on the island was a request put forward by the municipality’s authorities as the only way to bring tourism to Antikythera.

Every summer, since 2000, the 26th EPCA under the supervision of Mr Tsara- vopoulos has been conducting excavations at the ancient city of Antikythera (Figures 3 and 4). Financial support has been provided by the Municipality of Antiky- thera, the Society of Kytherian Studies, and more recently by the Kytherian Research Group. As in most cases in Greece, the local authorities are not actually involved in the management of the archaeological site, and the biggest challenge, as in the afore- mentioned case study of Paleokastro at Kythera, is to organize a living archaeological park following the rationale elaborated in the following sections of this paper.

Turning the fortified settlements of Paleokastro and Kastro into living archaeological parks

The underlying principle behind the proposal to turn the sites of Paleokastro in Kythera and Kastro in Antikythera into living archaeological parks is for visitors to be able to actively engage with the archaeological heritage instead of passively ‘consuming’ it. Moving beyond the typical one-off visit to an archaeological site, the idea is to provide a series of activities — focusing on the excavation, enhancement, and presentation of the site — in which the visitor can participate throughout the course of several days. Such open-air activities are greatly facilitated by the climate of southern Greece, where sunny days allowing outdoor work begin approximately from mid-March and last until the end of November.

Public participation in the archaeological process and benefits for site preservation

Within the proposed programme, visitors-tourists would be divided into working teams that will have the opportunity to learn about the excavation process and take part in an excavation themselves as labourers under the supervision of archaeologists. Each working team would be expected to work for two or three weeks. In addition to the provision of guided tours, they would be introduced into and provide assistance in several other activities relevant to the enhancement and function of an archaeo- logical park, such as object-handling, conservation, storage and safe-keeping of antiquities, maintenance of footpaths to areas of special interest, and so on. The fieldwork, including excavation and cleaning, would take place in the mornings. The working days would have floating hours, depending on sunrise, but they would not last for over five hours per day. The aforementioned details require that each year the excavation area will not be large in size and depth, because the primary aim of the excavation process is educational. In this process, professional archaeologists in charge of the programme would be expected to shift their focus from the common tendency to solely emphasize research and to impatiently pursue discoveries. They will rather serve as facilitators and guides to the excavation process without, of course, compromising the standards of archaeological work.

In the evenings, participants would be offered seminars on various themes, such as the history of the archaeological sites, the objectives of archaeological research, the interpretation of archaeological material, techniques of archaeological illustration for movable and non-movable finds, presentation of heritage to a wider public. They can also participate in the cleaning and recording of finds and discuss the excavation diaries (compiled by the responsible archaeologists on the day). Both Paleokastro and Kastro have a large number of movable findings that come to surface easily, and these items could be used as teaching material for the participants. On the island of Kythera, particular weekends could include organized trips to other archaeological sites on the island.

Overall, the rationale of the proposal is for the archaeological sites in question not to be inaccessible to the public ‘due to excavation’, as it happens in most excavations taking place in the country, but to engage people with the process of uncovering the past. Participants in the excavation and site-preservation activities will become, at the same time, vivid advertisers of the archaeological sites and their projects, and can potentially promote the programme and attract more visitors. From our experience so far, concerning the projects that have taken place in the last decade at the archaeological sites of Kythera and Antikythera, despite the difficulties of the living standards and working conditions, the numerous volunteers have had a tendency to return every year and their willingness to participate in the excavations has been consistent. Indeed, in 2007 fifteen international archaeology students participated in the excavations at Kythera for which they contributed Ä2500. This year a small finan- cial contribution was requested, and this did not deter participants from joining the excavation. With a programme that caters for satisfactory living conditions and the provision of a range of stimulating activities, the flow of volunteers would very likely remain high.

The target audience for the proposed activities consists of both people with a specific interest in archaeology (e.g. archaeology students) and members of the wider public who seek an alternative heritage and tourist experience, while the impact to the local community is direct. Both Paleokastro and Kastro have been incorporated into a hiking path network by the Municipality of Kythera and Antikythera. Hiking activity is mainly taking place during spring and autumn in order to avoid the extreme hot weather conditions during the summer, and this network could function as a means to encourage tourists to visit the islands of Kythera and Antikythera. Hikers could integrate visits to the aforementioned archaeological sites in their hiking adventure. Another target group could be the global community of archaeology stu- dents who seek available opportunities to gain excavation experience, as mentioned above. The expenses of the latter are often paid by their universities, providing a cost-effective solution. Indeed, this constitutes common practice in a number of excavations in several European countries.4

The long-term benefits of the aforementioned activities for the development and enhancement of the Paleokastro and Kastro archaeological sites are significant. The availability of human resources can ensure the continuity of the archaeological exca- vations, the existence of permanent staff (e.g. site wardens and scientific personnel), and the conduction of seasonal tours of the site (from March–April until November). This aim complies with one of the core goals of the Hellenic Archaeological Service as defined by article 3 of the so-called Archaeological Law.5 The continuous presence of a group working at the site would benefit the preservation of the antiquities and the maintenance of the paths, and would contribute to the overall appearance and condition of the archaeological park. In addition, the programme of activities would generate job opportunities for archaeologists, conservators, and other professionals who can be employed through the income generated from the participants. Drawing from our experience so far, a group of thirty to thirty-five participants (visitors- labourers) would need at least five archaeologists, one illustrator, and one conserva- tor responsible in every section for at least eight months in Kythera and five months in Antikythera. In the latter there is a potential for the development of a small museum in the former primary school of the island where currently the archaeologi- cal team camps every year and presents the archaeological finds to the community. The museum will exhibit the archaeological findings alongside with replicas of the findings derived from the universally known shipwreck of Antikythera (Marțiș et al., 2006; Pyrrou et al., 2006; Tsaravopoulos, 2009c; Caltsas et al., 2012).

Benefits for the local community

Another major objective of the proposal presented in this paper is the extension of the tourist season for the area surrounding Paleokastro at Kythera and the develop- ment of heritage-oriented tourism in the isolated community of Antikythera. This would provide economic benefits for the relevant local communities, as the programmes of activities within the archaeological parks would last for at least six months. Particularly in the case of Antikythera, we believe that, in line with the research conducted by Liwieratos (2009: 94) in Mani, economic growth would motivate local residents to stay in the area and would raise their awareness of the potential of their archaeological heritage. Indeed, residents on both islands who have followed public talks and activities relating to the excavation of the sites have expressed their interest in this proposal and have been positive towards an economic regeneration of their area through heritage tourism.

At the area surrounding Paleokastro there are four modern settlements, the communities of which can be involved in the running of a non-profit organization for the functioning of the archaeological park. The accommodation infrastructure in that particular area of Kythera allows for work to take place from mid-March until November, and the site itself is easily accessible from a number of villages (such as Mitata, Aroniadika, Livadi) and the coastal areas of Palaeopolis, Avlemonas, and Diakofti. The extensive area of the site is estimated to generate a long-lasting archaeological activity (at least for fifty to sixty years) which can take place during eight to nine months on a yearly basis.

In the case of Antikythera, the proposal for the creation of a living archaeological park would offer the island a new chance to revive its social and economic life. The small size of the island, its relative lack of other tourist attractions, and the inconven- ient boat connections have so far limited the opportunities for visitors to engage with something interesting for more than a couple of days. With this proposal, however, a series of heritage-related activities at the ancient fortification can sustain an interest- ing programme for two or three weeks. Currently the island, with only twenty-five inhabitants, does not provide adequate accommodation infrastructure or other serv- ices (restaurants, cafés, etc.), which renders the presence of large groups of people throughout the year difficult. It is due to the lack of infrastructure that currently the excavation team resides every summer in tents situated in the playground of a school building that ceased to function twenty years ago. Despite the difficult living condi- tions, the number of volunteers with no archaeological background, who are keen on participating in the excavation project, increases year by year. It is estimated that the attraction of tourists will lead to the development of tourist infrastructure and the programme will contribute substantially to the prevention of the island’s depopulation process (Tsaravopoulos, 2009d; 2010).

Local communities and decision-making

Furthermore, local communities could be actively involved — for example, through a locally elected committee, if not through their elected local authority representatives — in the development of a relevant management plan and of a non-profit organiza- tion that will be responsible, always under the supervision of the Hellenic Archaeo- logical Service, for the activity and function of the archaeological parks. To this end, this proposal advocates for principles of participatory planning models which emphasize that ‘heritage management has a higher probability of success by shifting responsibilities to the public’ (Liwieratos, 2009: 12). The community of Antikythera (representing the local administration on the island), for example, has initiated and occasionally funded the partial cleaning of the archaeological site and its fortification walls, as well as the uncovering of the architectural remains of the Apollo’s sanctuary located at the root of the hill (Figure 4).

Having a voice in the decision-making process with regard to the function of the archaeological parks of Paleokastro and Kastro, in collaboration with the responsible professional archaeologists, could also have a long-term positive impact on the col- laboration between the local people and the Archaeological Service. The traditional suspicion and mistrust often expressed by the Greek public towards archaeologists — largely due to the inconvenience, delays, and occasional forced expropriations that citizens encounter during construction works that uncover antiquities in their properties (Hamilakis, 2007: 36–38; Loukaki, 2008: 148; Tsaravopoulos, 2010: 57) — could be overcome with the active involvement of the local community in the management of its heritage. Indeed, our personal experience has shown that the initial climate of mistrust that the archaeological team faced at the early stages of the archaeological expedition has now been transformed into a climate of mutual trust and collaboration. A recent indicative example is that once the government forced the only archaeologist responsible for the two islands — as several other Greek experi- enced archaeologists — into early retirement as part of the current austerity measures, the local community reacted strongly against this decision (, 2012).

Problems and constrains: the role of the Greek State Archaeological Service

Several issues need to be considered and some crucial obstacles should be overcome in order for this proposed programme to materialize. Both Paleokastro and Kastro have been declared as ‘Archaeological Sites’ and are therefore protected by the Greek Archaeological Law. Although the sites are currently threatened mainly by the natu- ral elements, they remain without site wardens/guards because part of the land is still under private ownership. As a result, the land occupied by the archaeological remains must be either expropriated or exchanged with other state land on the islands, as suggested by article 18.8 of the legislation (Archaeological Law, 2002). As compulsive expropriations are paid after fifty years by the state, stakeholders tend to prefer the land exchange. However, it should be noted that we do not view expropriations as an ideal solution, since this results in the dislocation of the private owner/inhabitant. A better solution should be found to accommodate all parties.

Although any activity on the sites should remain under the continuous supervision of the Hellenic Archaeological Service (belonging, at the moment, to the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports), we argue that control of the latter should coexist with the suggested non-profit organization mentioned above. This organization should operate independently and manage the finance throughout the whole year, in order for all employees (archaeologists, conservators, etc.) to have guaranteed work.

It is recognized, however, that, in order for these archaeological sites on Kythera and Antikythera to operate in the aforementioned manner, bureaucratic obstacles that are closely connected with the structure of the Archaeological Service and the conservative attitude of certain of its members (Loukaki, 2008: 148) need to be con- fronted. It is common knowledge that bureaucratic anchylosis (stiffness), inertia, and the fear of assuming new responsibilities are often deeply rooted in state-controlled mechanisms (Herzfeld, 1991: 195–96; Hamilakis, 2007: 37; Deltsou, 2010: 255–56) and in many cases function as barriers against innovative ideas. As the first author has often experienced in his long career, in every new proposal the bureaucratic mecha- nism can ‘discover’ hundreds of typical ‘insuperable’ obstacles, which could otherwise be easily dealt with. In addition, ingenious solutions are too often found only when a politically or economically powerful individual demonstrates a personal interest to the project. Perhaps the restructuring of public administration and the apparent, and hopefully long-term, change of mentality that have resulted from the current economic crisis can provide scope for improvements. There is hope that this proposal may be accepted and realized, proving in practice that antiquities in Greece, when rightly promoted, can contribute effectively to the sustainable development of a region.


This paper intended to demonstrate, through the suggestion of an innovative, by Greek standards, proposal, that archaeological sites can potentially function as a means of economic regeneration of local communities in remote areas via the devel- opment of alternative cultural tourism. However, as implicated, this could only be achieved if bureaucracy and conservative mentalities that are opposing the economic exploitation of archaeological resources change. We argue that the current, severe economic crisis in Greece provides an opportunity for these mentalities to alter. Moving from the macro-environment that requires fundamental changes in mentali- ties and ideologies, to the micro-environment of the islands where the two sites are located, it is imperative to identify the unique attributes of each site and its wider context. It is only through this identification that the sites will gain the ‘competitive advantage elements’ (see Liwieratos, 2009) that are essential for their economic and social sustainability.


1 According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (), from March 2011 to March 2012, the number of visitors to these five sites altogether accounted for more than half of the total number of visitors to archaeological sites in the country.

2 Some examples include the site of Emporios on the island of Chios (Archontidou-Argyri and Kokkinoforou, 2003), the site of Palamari on Skyros (Parlama, 2006), the Paliomonastiro in Achaia

(), the Small Doxipara-Zoni at Evros (), and Karthaia on the island of Kea (Mendoni, 2004; Simantoni- Bournia et al., 2006).

3 In Northern Greece, the archaeological park of Dion () and the Dispilio excavation park or open-air museum (), in the prefectures of Pieria and Kastoria respectively, are also two characteristic examples of this approach.


4 Spain (), France (), and Romania ( and ).


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Notes on contributors

Aris Tsaravopoulos is an archaeologist of the 26th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, currently forced into early retirement from the Hellenic Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports.

Correspondence to: Aris Tsaravopoulos.

Gely Fragou is an archaeologist and independent researcher.
Correspondence to: Gely Fragou.


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