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15 March 2023, 09:10

Nikkal Hymn of Ugarit Syria… the first musical notation known to mankind


DAMASCUS, 15 March (BelTA - SANA). - A small clay tablet that does not exceed the size of a fist corrected the history of musical notation in the world and brought it back to its true cradle in the kingdom of crafts, music and civilization, Ugarit, which has always enlightened humanity with its treasures and civilization and still is.

What the Kingdom of Ugarit offered to humanity did not stop at the first alphabet and the first seal, but rather it is considered the true founder of Western music through the oldest recorded musical pieces in the world in which it was discovered and dates back to the second millennium BC, preceding the Pythagoras scale by a full thousand years.

At a time when Western research in musical history indicates that the oldest piece of music known to the world is the piece / Orestes / which was composed by the greatest poet of tragedy, the Greek poet Europides, and that the “seventh scale” that Pythagoras spoke about in the year 500 BC is the basis of the internationally known musical scale. The discovery of the clay inscription in the Syrian Kingdom of Ugarit changes these facts and confirms that the oldest musical notation known to history originated in the city of Ugarit 3400 years ago from our present time.

Those unique musical notations, which were written around 1400 BC and discovered in 1948 in the city of Ugarit, were deciphered by the writer Richard Dumbrell, author of the book “The Antiquities of Musicology in the Ancient Near East” and included a musical group containing 36 songs, which he called “Al-Harran Songs”/ dug Cuneiform script on clay tablets.

The most distinguished of those musical notations was the hymn of Nikkal, the Goddess of the Sad Moon, which was found in an almost complete form and with an indescribable magical composition that reflects the spirit of Syrian Ugaritic music as the oldest musical work known to mankind, in which it came:

I will throw a ring of lead at the feet of truth or your holy throneI will cleanse? And I change after sin Sins no longer cover it and there is no more need to change it My heart is at peace after I have fulfilled my vow My lady will comfort me..She will make me dear to her heart My vow will cover my sins and sesame oil will take my place In your presence, allow me to make the barren fertile and the grain to rise upward..It is the wife who will bear the children to their father..She is the one who so far has not given children to bear.

Writer and researcher Raghda Shafiq told SANA that the sad hymn, which was composed on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, was written on a rectangular clay tablet, seven and a half inches long and three inches wide. And signs tell the story of a beautiful, sad woman who married an Ugaritic god, but she did not have children, and she became like a barren land, so she prayed to the sky to grant her fertility and seeds, so that she would bloom and life would be renewed.

Researcher Shafiq pointed out that this clay tablet remained a puzzle for years of research and study, until its symbols were revealed as a piece of music played on the most important international theaters. About the meanings carried by the words of Nikkal hymn, Shafiq says that that woman who visited the holy gods chose a lead ring to receive it at her feet because of its indications of an authority in which there is disease or a weak authority. The people of the region use lead to expel envy, the evil eye, and disease.

On the topic of sin and purification contained in the hymn, the researcher adds that sin has always been a breach to the divine law and a lack of adherence to the moral or ethical law. It is a deliberate sin, a crime, and a disobedience. Therefore, she acknowledges and confesses her sin, which prompted her to change, purify, and return to righteousness and righteousness.

In turn, ex-director of Syrian antiquities, researcher Bassam Jamous, told SANA that the discovered inscription is one of the 36 cuneiform inscriptions found by the French mission during archaeological excavations in Ugarit in 1948, dated to the fourteenth century BC, based on the archaeological layer in which it was found.

Dr. Jamous indicated that this inscription was almost intact among the entire collection, and it was possible to read the largest part of it. Today it is preserved in the Damascus National Museum and was numbered /h-6/ or /h-6/, where the letter /h/ or /h/ is The first letter of the word Houri, which is the language in which this number was written.

Concerning the contents of the inscription, Jamous says that it was divided into two parts by two transverse lines engraved in it. The upper part contains poetic phrases that constitute a hymn in the Hurrian language. Each line continues to be written on the back of the inscription, while the lower part includes six lines inscribed with syllabic writings in the Akkadian language, indicating that it took. He deciphered it for a long time because of the ambiguity surrounding those symbols, which are numbers and signs according to a sequence, and it became clear, after a search that lasted for many years, that it was a musical notation.

Jamous adds that the piece was documented through several studies conducted by specialists, the first of which was Emmanuel Laroche, and he published a research on it in the Ugaritica magazine, which is a hymn dedicated to the goddess Nikkal, the wife of the moon God, written in the Hurrian, Akkadian and Ugaritic languages, in a poetic style that expresses love and delicate feelings, especially the upper part of the body. The text was in the Hurrian language, while the lower part included the musical notation in the Akkadian language, which was the language of international correspondence.

Jamous went on to say that the note consists of letters, signs and numbers, as he was the first to note it, the English scientist David Wollstan, who relied in his study on comparison with the cuneiform tablets discovered in the sites of Mesopotamia, especially with regard to letters, signs and numbers, but he was unable to reach the final results, especially with regard to the mismatch of the melody with the words and his failure to find clear explanations for the clips of the painting, so that the American archaeologist / Ann Kilmer / made another attempt to interpret the musical tablet because she was not convinced of what Walstan presented, so she coordinated the clips of the recorded melody, but she also did not reach the desired results and stumbled in dividing the poetic verses and notation Music.After Scientist Kilmer stumbled in the division of poetic verses and musical notation, she cooperated with the American scientist and researcher / Richard Crocker / and made a harp similar to the harps of Mesopotamia, especially the harp of the Iraqi city of Ur, in order to conduct an experiment in composing the scale of the notes, and after more than ten years, / Crocker / presented the hymn in front of the masses and specialists, he recorded it on a CD, published it and distributed it in 1975, according to Dr. Jamous.

Dr. Jamous adds that the specialized Belgian researcher / Michelle Kima / also presented her experience in studying the notes of the marvelous song by adding and increasing musical signs on the notes, but she also did not reach the desired results until the son of Lattakia / Raoul Vitali / specialist in physical and mathematical sciences and music studies came to be the first to oppose the studies that preceded it through comparative studies, especially those related to musical notes and the musical scale, assuring the world that this musical notation was delivered by an orientalist after he made the necessary matches on each verse separately from the note by dividing the anthem into six lines so that he could present to the world a knowledge revolution in the world of music, after he succeeded in composing it and playing it in the maqam / Ned Qibli, which is similar to that of Kurd.Those musical notations aroused a great wave of interest among musicians and received many translations, including Professor David Wolstan, Marcel Duchenne Guillaume and Anne Kilmer, which affirms the great importance that Ugarit has provided to humanity, as more than fifty universities around the world teach their students the Ugarit alphabet.Concerning the musical instruments that were present in the Kingdom of Ugarit, the musical researcher Ziyad Al-Ajjan pointed out in an interview with SANA to the flute made of reeds, which the Ugaritans gave importance in their various industries, and an instrument similar to the lute made of Qarqoush, with strings made of animal intestines, which are still considered the finest types of strings. He added that 3 strings were placed on it, the first tuned to the /dou/, the second to the /re/, and the third to the /soul/, in an order preceding Pythagoras by 900 years, in addition to the harp or harp that is played with the fingers.

Al-Ajan pointed out that Greek music remained the beginning of musical history, especially with regard to the Pythagorean scale 500 years BC, and the oldest piece of music known to the West through the play Euripides, which he composed himself, until the great discovery came in Ugarit (the musical tablet) and other than this historical premise, stressing that the music of Ugarit is a thousand years older than its Greek counterpart, especially since the Ugaritic hymn of Nikkal became famous in the world and its music was distributed and taught in specialized institutes and universities.

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