The Oldest Song

It is hard to know exactly when humans started playing music, but archaeologists have found flutes made of bone and ivory from 43,000 years ago. Archeologists have found many ancient examples of instruments, but written songs are much more difficult to find. It is likely that we will never know what the very first song was. This is due, in part, to the fact that writing was not developed until 3500 B.C., when cuneiform was created by the Sumerians. The very first songs were most likely passed down from parents to children through oral traditions.

  • The oldest song ever found is titled “Hurrian Hymn No. 6.”
  • It is a song to Nikkal, the Phoenician goddess of orchards.
  • It was written in cuneiform – an early form of writing.
  • The clay tablet that the song is written on is 4,000 years old.
  • The tablet also contains instructions on how to tune the instrument and a hymn to the ruler Lipit-Ishtar, a king who ruled in Mesopotamia.
  • The tablet was found in 1950 in Syria when archeologists were excavating the ancient city of Ugarit.
  • Unfortunately, the tablet broke in half, so the melody is incomplete.
  • It is very difficult to translate the incomplete music from cuneiform, so musicians cannot recreate the music note or note.
  • It is made even more difficult because ancient musicians had different styles of recording and thinking about how they played music.
  • The first complete musical composition to have been discovered is “Seikilos Epitaph.” It was found in Turkey and is engraved on a marble column that was used to mark a woman’s grave.
  • It is written in Greek and comes from the first century A.D. It is easier to translate this song, so musicians have been able to recreate the entire hymn.
  • Both songs were probably performed on an instrument like a lyre, which has nine strings and looks similar to a small harp.
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