Archeology Science Video

What is the oldest known piece of music?

In ancient musical history, once must first distinguish between the oldest surviving written musical notation, the oldest surviving written melody and the oldest surviving complete written melody so far discovered in History.

An excavation in the 1950s in the ancient city of Ugarit, a coastal town in modern-day Syria, discovered a set of 29 tablets from around 1400 BCE, at the near end of the Hurrian civilization, which dates back to at least 3000 BCE. Discovered in modern day Syria, the Hurrians were not Syrian – they came from modern day Anatolia. The tablets all denote some form of symbols, however only one of these tablets was legible: the now-famed text H6. The H6 tablet appears to contain music annotations for a nine-stringed ancient harp called a sammûm, along with lyrics for a hymn to Nikkal, an Akkadian goddess of orchards. This would make the tablet the earliest known surviving written musical notation of a melody.

The Cuneiform text clearly indicated specific names for lyre strings, and their respective musical intervals – a sort of “Guitar tablature”, for lyre. These amazing musical texts found at Ugarit, preserved precious sacred Hurrian music which may have already been thousands of years old, prior to their inscription for posterity, on the clay tablets found at Ugarit. 


This unique video, features first arrangement of Michael Levy for solo lyre, of the 3400 year old “Hurrian Hymn no.6”.


featured image ©Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

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