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This paper describes phase maps. A review of the phase unwrapping problem is given. Different structures, in particular fringelines, cutlines, and poles, contained within a phase map are described and their origin and behavior investigated. The problem of phase unwrapping can then be addressed with a better understanding of the source of poles or inconsistencies. This understanding, along with some assumptions about what is being encoded in the phase of a magnetic resonance image, are used to derive a new method for phase unwrapping which relies only on the phase map. The method detects cutlines and distinguishes between noise-induced poles and signal undersampling poles based on the length of the fringelines. The method was shown to be robust to noise and successful in unwrapping challenging clinical cases.