Hymn to Nikkal, the oldest written song in the world

Hymn to Nikkal, the oldest written song in the world



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The Hymn to Nikkal, a Hurrian hymn from the 12th century B.C. found in Ugarit (Syria), is the oldest written piece of music dated between 1400 and 1200 BC.

It is written in Ugaritic cuneiform and dedicated to the goddess of the gardens Nikkal, which translated means «Great lady and fruitful«, Being in turn the mother of Yarikh, the god of the Moon.

Its discovery was made in the 1950s by the French archaeologist Emmanuel Laroche, when he found 36 clay tablets in the excavations of the Royal Palace of Ugarit.

For 20 years, an attempt was made to translate the tablets, but the vast majority of them were incomplete, until Dr. Anne Kilmer, a specialist in Assyriology from the University of California, managed to fully translate tablet No. 6 (the only complete one).

On this tablet they found the letters of a Hymn dedicated to the goddess Nikkal along with instructions for a singer accompanied by a sammûm of nine strings, a type of harp or more likely, a lyre. Other tablets found also contain instructions for tuning this instrument.

Versions of the Hymn to Nikkal

Both at the time of translation and decades later, its transcription continues to generate doubts among various experts and therefore there are several versions of the Hymn to Nikkal, as well as more modern adaptations.

Two of the initial versions were created by David wulstan in 1971 and by M. Duchesne-Guillemin in 1977.

David Wulstan's version (1971)



Here you can see the sheet music of the Hymn to Nikkal by Wulstan.

Version by M. Duchesne-Guillemin (1977)



Here you can see the score of Hymn to Nikkal by Duchesne-Guillemin.

Version of Raoul Vitale (1982)



Here you can see the sheet music for the Hymn to Nikkal by Raoul Vitale.

Version by R. J. Dumbrill (1998)



Here you can see the sheet music for the Hymn to Nikkal by R. Dumbrill.

Monzo's version (2000)



Here you can see the sheet music of the Hymn to Nikkal by Monzo.

Other modern versions

Version by Syrian composer and pianist Malek Jandali, from his album «Echoes from Ugarit«, Recorded with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Michael Levy, only with lyre.

Finally, we leave you a link to a study on this hymn conducted by the University of Toronto.

After studying History at the University and after many previous tests, Red Historia was born, a project that emerged as a means of dissemination where you can find the most important news of archeology, history and humanities, as well as articles of interest, curiosities and much more. In short, a meeting point for everyone where they can share information and continue learning.


Video: Hurrian Hymn H6 Oldest known melody in history Guitar arrangement by Feras Rada