Music has a long history, dating back to the dawn of time. Archaeologists have discovered 43,000-year-old bone and ivory flutes, and it’s probable that many ancient musical forms have been perpetuated through oral traditions. Read below to know the first song in the world.
However, when it comes to individual songs, the earliest examples are quite new. A 4,000-year-old Sumerian clay tablet with directions and tunings for a hymn commemorating the monarch Lipit-Ishtar contains the earliest piece of musical notation. Most scholars agree that “Hurrian Hymn No. 6,” a cuneiform ode to the goddess Nikkal penned somewhere around the 14th century B.C., is the oldest surviving hymn. The melody was discovered on clay tablets in the remains of the Syrian city of Ugarit in the 1950s. They offer not only a nearly full set of musical notations but also detailed directions for playing the song on a nine-stringed lyre.
The “Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is said to be the world’s oldest melody, while the “Seikilos Epitaph,” a first-century A.D. Greek song, is the oldest musical work to have survived in its entirety. The hymn was discovered carved on an antique marble column in Turkey that was used to mark the burial of a woman. An inscription says, “I am a gravestone, an image.”
The song’s lyrics are a homage to Nikkal, a Semitic goddess of orchards, and Tablet h.6 is the most comprehensive in the collection. The tablet also specifies that the vocalist be accompanied by a sammûm, which is a kind of harp.
The oldest melody in the world is said to be the purest form of music.
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