Music has always been a part of the world and humankind, however, the songs of antiquity have largely been lost to history. Among those who created and played music were the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia. In this cradle of civilisation, history, laws and religious texts were written on tablets in cuneiform. Many of these have survived, including one extraordinary panel: the oldest surviving music panels in the world. A 3,400-year-old tablet called "Hurrian Hymn No. 6" contains a melody in praise of the ancient goddess Nikkal. The ancient Hurrians were a Bronze Age people of the Middle East.
They had a rich culture, although much of their history and origins remain obscure. However, they left clues, such as a cuneiform tablet discovered in the ruins of the city of Ugarit in northern Syria in the 1950s. The city was a centre of trade and exchange with other Middle Eastern civilisations and even kingdoms as far away as Egypt. The tablet contains four lines of text in the Ugarit dialect. Although the language is difficult to interpret, "Hurrian Hymn No. 6" is undoubtedly the earliest surviving tune or song in the world.
The lyrics of the song are in the upper quadrant, while the lower contains the "notes". Scholars believe that parts of the repeated lyrics indicate a refrain. The Akkadian cuneiform below is the heptatonic diatonic scale for the nine-string lyre. These are called musical intervals. Although the exact translations are somewhat controversial, University of California, Berkeley professor Ann Draffkorn Kilmer translated the tablet in the 1970s and got her first taste of the ancient song. She and her colleagues made a recording called "Sounds from the Silence," which you can listen to below.
The panel "Hurrian Hymn No. 6" is one of 29 musical texts discovered in the Palace of Ugarit and dated to around 1400 BC. be dated. e. when the Hurrian civilization fell. These musical relics are not the oldest ever discovered, although they are the oldest complete songs. The "Hurrian Hymn" is preceded by a fragment of 4,000-year-old Sumerian musical notation containing instructions and settings for a song about the ruler of Lipit-Ishtar. An examination of these earliest works shows that the ancients knew about the music of the wealthy, suggesting that music is a pleasure and an art that people have always treasured.