Good music is timeless, they say. But usually, that’s only talking about The Beatles or Elvis. So how well does a 3,400-year-old tune stand the test of time?
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. 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.
Also, interestingly for an ancient “music sheet”, it contained instructions on how to tune the harps. Years of research has managed to decipher it and create new interpretations of the musical instructions, although difficulties translating the notes means there is no definitive rendition.
You can listen to an interpretation of the song by Michael Levy, a musician and composer who researches ancient music, in the video below.