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Ancient Mesopotamian Music

Jan 15, 2016




Ancient Mesopotamian Music. Idiophones. KRATAL = rattle URUDU NIG-KAL-GA = large copper or bronze bell. KRATEL (?). URUDU NIG-KAL-GA. Membranophones. UB [Akk. “uppu”] = drum SU UB = drum made from skin, leather UB-ZABAR = drum made of bronze - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Ancient Mesopotamian Music

  • IdiophonesKRATAL = rattleURUDU NIG-KAL-GA = large copper or bronze bell

  • KRATEL (?)


  • MembranophonesUB [Akk. uppu] = drumSU UB = drum made from skin, leatherUB-ZABAR = drum made of bronzeBALAG [Akk., Ass. balaggu, balangu, palagga, pelaggu] = drum made from two skulls, hourglass drumBALAG-DI [Akk. tumbuttu, timbputu] = smaller version of BALAGDUB = drumhead made of copper

  • A-LA / SU A-LA = giant suspended drumLILIS = [Akk. lilissu] large (stationary) and small (processional) goblet drumsAD-A-PA [Akk. adapu]= timbrel with rectangular frame and two skin-headssu ME-ZE [Akk. mezu, manzu] = tambourine with one head


  • A-LA / SU A-LA


  • AD-A-PA

  • su ME-ZE

  • AerophonesTI-GI [Akad. tigu, tegu] = vertically held reedKA-GI = mouth reedIMIN-E TI-GI = seven note reedGI-GID / GI-BU/ GIS-SIR = long reedGI-DIM = large reedNA [Akad. nabu] = single beating reed (cf. clarinet)GI-ER-RA / GI-IR-RA = lament

  • S[H]EM [Akk. halhallatu] = double pipeGIS HAR-HAR = double pipe made of woodKITMU [Akk. katamu] = reed covered by cap of rush, gourd, wood or hornPITU = curved single beating reedDUN-GI GU = bent pipePULLU / MEKKU / KIZALLU = military trumpets

  • SIM / SI-IM / SI-IM-DA / SI-IM-DU = blowing hornKARAN = war trumpets

  • TI-GI

  • S[H]EM


  • ChordophonesAL = harpGIS ZAG-SAL = cross-string harpGIS MIRITU = little harpGIS SABITU = seven-stringed harpGIS PAN-TAG-GA = bow-shaped harpLU GIS PAN-TAG-GA = to hit or strike the GIS PAN-TAG-GA

  • HUL [SI-SA] = upright harpGIS AL-GAR = lyreSINNITU = luteSA-LI-NE-LU = psaltery


  • HUL [SI-SA]



  • Nineveh, Relief, the Royal Elamite Orchestra, c. 668-626 BCE

    Upper-chested harpsLower-chested harpsDouble reed-pipesDrumUr, Archaic Seal, c. 2800, Bow-Shaped Harp and Clappers, presently held at University Museum, Philadelphia

    I am connecting these clappers with KRATEL because of the sonic similarity to the later terms krotala and crotala.Nineveh, Horse Bell, c. 700 BCE, presently held in the British MuseumBabylonia, Incantation Bell, c. 600 BCE, presently held in the Berlin MuseumBabylonian Plaque, Kettle-Drum and Cymbals, c. 1100 BCE, presently held in the British Museum

    LILIS-drum and cymbalsBabylonian Figurine, Hourglass-Shaped Drum, c. 2000 BCE, presently held in the British Museum

    BALAG-DI = small drum made from two skullsUr-Nammu, Stele, Large Drum, c. 2270 BCE, presently held in University Museum, Philadelphia

    A-LA / SU A-LA = giant suspended drumErech, Tablet Showing a Vase-Shaped Drum, c. 300 BCE, presently held in Brussels Museum

    LILIS = large (stationary) or small (processional) vase-shaped drumUr, Royal Cemetery, Plaque, Lyre, Sistrum, and Squre Timbrel, c. 2700 BCE

    Cartoon on a decorative panel on the front of a Sumerian lyre, Ur, c. 2600 BCE, University Museum, Philadelphia

    GIS AL-GAR = lyre played by an assAD-A-PA = rectangular timbrel played by a bearsistrum played by a jackalNippur Figurine, c. 2000 BCE, Large Timbrel, presently held in the University Museum, Philadelphia, PA

    ME-ZE = tambourine with one skin stretched over the headBabylonia, Figurine, Small Tibrel, c. 2000 BCE, presently held in British Museum

    ME-ZE = tambourine with one skin stretched over the head Sumeria, Archaic Seal, Vertical Flute, presently held in the Louvre Museum, Paris

    TI-GI = vertical fluteUr, Older Cemetery, Double Reed-Pipes, c. 2800 BCE, presently held in the University Museum, Philadelphia

    S[H]EM = double pipeCarchemish Relief, Large Drum and Horn, c. 1250 BCE, portion presently held in the British Museum

    A-LA / SU A-LA-drumSIM / SI-IM / SI-IM-DA / SI-IM-DU = HornStringed instruments were especially prominent in Mesopotamian music. We distinguish three basic types -- harps, lyres, and lutes -- although the Sumero-Akkadian documents themselves include a much more extensive terminology. In the construction, the harps have a different length string for each note, the strings being stretched across a frame, either in the form of an arc or an angle constructed of wood. One side of the frame contains a sound-box. The Sumerian harps are typically large in size (about a meter in height) and could include as many as 30 strings. The lyres also have a string for each note, but the strings are all roughly the same length, hence must be tuned by differing tension and diameter. Lyres were typically quadrilateral. Sumerian lyres were also large (about a meter square) and could have as many as 15 strings; their sound boxes were commonly in the shape of a bull, and they were elaborately decorated. The large ritual harps and lyres were played with both hands plucking the strings, whereas the smaller portable instruments associated especially with West Semitic areas (ancient Syria-Palestine) or with Anatolia (ancient Turkey) were usually strummed with a plactrum. The different shapes and sizes were held in different positions -- horizontal as well as vertical.Bismya, Vase, c. 3200 BCE, presently held in the Istambul Museum

    A reproduction of a fragment of the vase appears on the left and a line drawing of the relief on the vase appears on the right. Note the two lower-chested harp players

    GIS PAN-TAG-GA = Small Bow-Shaped HarpUr, Royal Cemetery, Large Bow-Shaped Harp (restored), c. 2700 BCE, presently held in the British Museum

    Assyria, Relief, Lower-Chested Harps, 883-859 BCESippur, Figurine, c. 1900 BCE, Upright Harp, presently in the Istamboul Museum

    HUL [SI-SA] = upright harp Ur, Royal Cemetery, Gold Lyre (restored), c. 2700 BCE, presently in the Baghdad Museum

    GIS AL-GAR = lyre

    In the 1920's, the Royal Cemetery of Ur excavations became on of the great technical achievements of Middle Eastern archaeology and now represents one of the most spectacular discoveries in ancient Mesopotamia. Deep within the site lay the tombs of the mid-3rd millennium B.C. kings and queens of the city of Ur, famed in the Bible as the home of Biblical patriarch, Abraham. The tombs date to the period known as Early Dynastic IIIA (2600-2500 B.C.), a high point in the history of Sumerian culture. The renowned excavator of the cemetery was British archaeologist C.Leonard (later Sir Leonard) Woolley. In all, Woolley uncovered some 1800 burials. He classified 16 as royal based on their distinctive form, their wealth, and the fact that they contained the burials of household servants, male and female, along with clearly high-ranking personages.As provided by Iraq's first Antiquities Law, established in 1922, the artifacts were divided between the excavators and the host country. They are currently housed in the British Museum, the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and the Iraq Museum (Baghdad). "Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur" will feature the unique artifacts from Pu-abi's tomb, which constitute the core of the Museum's holdings from the excavations. It will include her personal jewelry, as well as finds from the tomb chamber and burial pits. Additionally, the exhibit will include some of the more striking and important artifacts from other tombs such as a large wooden lyre with a gold and lapis lazuli bull's head; a silver-covered, boat-shaped lyre with a statuette of a rampant stag;.GREAT LYRE FROM THE "KING'S GRAVE." (Left = 40K Right = 39K) Gold, lapis lazuli, shell, bitumen, and wood. Height of head 35.6 cm, Height of plaque 33 cm.

    The plaque and the head are from the bull-headed lyre. The plaque is constructed of shell and lapis lazuli, and depicts four separate scenes. In the first scene, a naked hero is wrestling two bulls. In the second scene, a dog with a dagger in his belt is carrying a table with meat joints, while a lion follows him carrying a cup and a jar. The third scene shows a boar steadying a lyre, while a donkey plays it as a jackal sits at the donkey's feet. The fourth scene shows a mythological creature with a scorpion's taile and a gazelle holding two plated tumblers like those from Lady Pu-abi's tomb. The bull, constructed of copper, and the plaque are well-preserved.Ur, Royal Cemetery, Boat-Shaped Lyre, c. 2700 BCE, presently held in the University Museum, Philadelphia

    GIS AL-GAR = lyreUr, Royal Cemetery, Silver Lyre (with original tuning rods), c. 2700 BCE, presently held in the British Museum

    GIS AL-GAR = lyreLagash (Tello), Bas-Relief, Lyre, c. 2400 BCE, presently held in the Louvre, Paris

    GIS AL-GAR = lyreUr (Sumerian), Mosaic Standard of Ur on the side representing peace, 2500-2000BCE, presently held in British Museum

    Lyre-player with an 11-string lyre. A Singer appears to the Lyre-players right. The musical entertainers appear as part of a banquet scene.Susa, Babylonian Boundary Stone, Bas-Relief, Long-Necked Lute, c. 1600 BCE, presently held in the Louvre Museum, Paris

    SINNITU = luteRas Shamra (Ugarit), 15.30 + 15.49 + 17.387 (top=obverse, bottom - reverse), Hurrian cult song with notation, c. 1500 BCE, re-dated in 1999 to 1225 BCE, presently held in National Museum, Damascus

    See the vinyl record made by Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, Richard L. Crocker, and Robert R. Brown, _Sounds from Silence: Recent Discoveries in Ancient Near Eastern Music_ (Berkeley, CA: Bit Enki Publications, 1976.

    Another interpretation of this entitled A zaluzi to the gods (Hurrian Hymn 6) appears on Ancient Music of the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Greeks, Band 11.

    The 15th and 17th campaigns excavating ancient Ugarit were carried out between 1950 and 1955. They brought to light three cuneiform fragments that, when joined to

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