Assyrian harp

Musical instruments in Mesopotamia included lyres, drums and rattles. 5,500-year-old pipes, triangles, stringed instruments and drums have been found in Mesopotamia. The Mesopotamians may have even devised a primitive form of musical notation. The lyre is an instrument invented by the Sumerians around 3200 B.C. Exquisite lyres wig gold bulls head have been excavated from a royal cemetery in Ur. A lyre was found in the grave of Lady Pu-abi in Ur.

Sumerian music consisted of love and drinking songs and hymns composed to gods and kings, and lamentations for the dead. Golden treasures from Ur include the Harp of Ur, a Sumerian gold harp dated at 2500 B.C. It contains a golden head of a bearded bull that is attached to a soundbox decorated with colored stones and pieces of shell. It was found in the tomb of Puabi in Ur.

Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin wrote in her article:“Music in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt”: Almost all categories of instruments were represented in Mesopotamia and Egypt, from clappers and scrapers to rattles, sistra, flutes, clarinets, oboes, trumpets, harps, lyres, lutes, etc. As early as 2600 B.C. harps and lyres are attested at Ur. In the New Kingdom, Egypt borrowed several instruments from Mesopotamia: the angular vertical harp, square drum, etc. The organ, invented in Ptolemaic Egypt, is first attested in its new, non hydraulic form in the third century A.D. Hama mosaic. Musical theory, based on the heptatonic system with seven scales and modes is found in Mesopotamia as early as the eighteenth century B.C. This theory is reflected in a musical score written beneath a Hurrite hymn of the fourteenth century B.C.”[Source: “Music in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt by Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin, World Archaeology Volume 12, 1981 - Issue 3, Pages 287-297, published online: 15 July 2010]

Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site; British Museum ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia ; Louvre ; Metropolitan Museum of Art ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago ; Iraq Museum Database ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art

Archaeology News and Resources: : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news; Past Horizons, online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory

Reallexikon Der Assyriologie articles on Mesopotamia music and harps: A.D. Kilmer, "Musik. A. I. In Mesopotamien." [Music in Mesopotamia: article in English], Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie, Bd. 8, ed. D.O. Edzard (Berlin & New York, 1993-1997), pp. 463-482. Dr. Anne Kilmer has a lecture tape/CD, ISF#12. "Music of the Ancient Near East: World's Oldest Song", June 21, 1989, during which Sumerian music was demonstrated, at: There is an incredibly extensive Music bibliography under the letter M at: Finally, there is a link on my Links page for Musical Theory in the Ancient World - the Mesopotamian Precursors of Pythagoras

Nature of Music of Mesopotamia

Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin wrote in her article:“Numerous ancient texts indicate the importance of music in Mesopotamian life, the names of musical instruments, and last but not least, an elaborate musical theory. 1. In Sumer, music was widely used in religious ceremonies and in funerary ritual as at Ur. The musicians belonged to the temple staff and formed a hierarchy. At Mari a certain Ur-Nanshe was honoured with a statue (now in the Louvre). Scenes with animals playing music, even though they may illustrate only fables or proverbs, suggest the existence of a kind of profane music. On the Assyrian reliefs we see music associated with war and royalty. [Source: “Music in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt by Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin, World Archaeology, Volume 12, 1981 - Issue 3, Pages 287-297 /=]

“2. Few of the numerous words designating musical instruments are identified with certainty. A Sumerian pictogram proves that the vertical bow-harp was called balang or balag . The horizontal harp was probably the algar from Elam. The lyre may have been called in Sumerian zami , in Babylonian sammu , in Hittite zinar. A picture of a Babylonian drum has the word lilissu. One aerophone, perhaps a form of oboe, was called embubu. /=\

“3. Until November 1962 nothing was known of Babylonian musical theory. Since then a series of discoveries have begun gradually to reveal the existence of a definite system as early as the eighteenth century B.C. It possibly went back even further, to the Sumerians, for the Babylonians inherited many traits from their culture. The music was heptatonic and, as later in Greece, there were seven scales and modes. A Babylonian fragment tells how to pass from one to another on a nine-stringed instrument. /=\

“In 1969 it was found that one of the cuneiform tablets excavated at Ugarit (Ras Shamra) contained, written underneath a hymn in Hurrite in a barbaric Akkadian script, a succession of musical terms identified as Babylonian. This was presumably a musical notation. Three attempts have been made so far at reading this musical score, including one by the present writer (cf. Kilmer 1971 ; Duchesne-Guillemin 1977).” /=\

World's Oldest Written Music: the Hurrian Hymns

The world's oldest written music are the Hurrian Hymns on musical fragments found on cuneiform tablets in Ugarit and dated to about the mid-second millennium B.C.. They contained text (in Hurrian language) and musical scores of several "songs to the gods", all composed in the same tuning or mode (called nîd qabli). Only one piece, labeled h. 6, is almost complete. [Source: AOL]

The interpretation of the notation is not clear, though several "reconstructions" have been published. It consists mainly of "dichords", whose interpretation in relative pitch is well understood from other sources, and of subsequent numerals. The meaning of these numerals (repeat counts or rhythmic values?) as well as the relationship between music and text remains unclear. Probably the vocal melody was known to the performers, while the scores provided rough hints at "intervallic harmonization". Although it is likely that one of the notes of each written interval regularly coincided with a vocal note, the latter cannot unambiguously be deduced from the former.

In abstracts. renditions provide the written intervals, while the numbers are represented as durations. Since the 'scores' incorporate characteristics that are best explained on the basis of nine strings, and since the theoretical description of the ancient Near Eastern musical system is also based on a nine-stringed instrument, the nine notes of this instrument have been used: thus, the two highest pitches are always doubled one octave below. A sort of just tuning is used that can, with reasonable certainty, be deduced from the music. The "music" can, perhaps, give an idea of the "harmonic" progression of the hymns, but is by no means intended to represent a reconstruction.

Hurrian hymn

Deciphering the Hurrian Hymns

In 1972, after 15 years of research Prof. Anne Kilmer (professor of Assyriology, University of California, and a curator at the Lowie Museum of Anthropology at Berkeley) transcribed one of the oldest known pieces of music notation in the world. [Source:]

Clay tablets relating to music, containing the cuneiform signs of the "Hurrian" language, had been excavated in the early 1950s at the Syrian city of ancient Ugarit in what is now modern Ras Shamra. One text contained a complete hymn, both words and music and is the oldest known preserved music notation in the world. Prof. Kilmer transcribed this piece of music into modern music notation. Other individuals have also attempted to transcribe this music, with differing interpretations.

The tablets date back to approximately 1400 B.C. and contain a hymn to the moon god's wife, Nikal. Remarkably, the tablets also contain detailed performance instructions for a singer accompanied by a harpist as well as instructions on how to tune the harp. From this evidence, Prof. Kilmer and other musicologists have created realizations of the hymn .

There are several audio versions of the Hurrian hymns: 1) a MIDI arrangement of Prof. Kilmer's transcription; 2) Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin's transcription and arrangement of the Hurrian song, Duchesne-Guillemin's "A Hurrian Musical Score from Ugarit: The Discovery of Mesopotamian Music," Sources from the Ancient Near East 2/2 (Malibu, CA: Undena publications, 1984). There was also an accompanyingcassette recording of male voices singing the Hurrian words (Brandeis call no. DS 59 H8 D88 1984); a MIDI of an arrangement of M. L. West's transcription of the Hurrian song. See his article, "The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts," Music and Letters 75 [1993-94] 161-179.

Hurrian hymn

Musical Instruments from Mesopotamia: Clappers, Scrapers and Bells

Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin wrote in her article:“Music in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt”: “Clappers. The simplest percussion sticks are held one in each hand. In Mesopotamia they are either straight or bent like boomerangs. Two pairs in copper from Kish are in the Oriental Institute, Chicago. Others are depicted on engraved shell plaques adorning harps, and on a Babylonian terracotta in the Louvre (inv. no. AO 12443). [Source: “Music in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt by Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin, World Archaeology, Volume 12, 1981 - Issue 3, Pages 287-297 /=]

“Scrapers . A Sumerian terracotta in the Louvre shows two musicians playing scrapers. They originally held in their right hand a stick, in their left an implement with a series of notches cut in it. This instrument has been identified thanks to the discovery in the Teheran Archaeological Museum of a similar, though more elaborate, one, until recently catalogued as ‘of unknown nature', and of a second specimen, also from Iran and wrongly catalogued in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, as a bull-roarer. These two Iranian instruments are prehistoric, dating to about 1500 B.C. They are made of clay in the shape of a slit cylinder or bottle, with an animal's head, notches perpendicular to the slit and a ring at the back. Judging from similar ethnographic instru- ments in metal found notably in black Africa, the ring served to hold the cord to which was attached the little stick used to scrape the notches. Bone scrapers have been found in Syria at Byblos. It seems probable that scrapers must have existed in ancient Egypt also. /=\

“Rattles. These exist in two categories : gourd and ‘pie-crust’ rattles, filled with pebbles or other small, hard objects, made of clay, sometimes in animal shapes, and found both in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Sistra. The sistrum consisted of a handle and a frame with jingling cross-bars. It is attested in Sumer on a seal in the Louvre, with the frame in the form of a spur, as early as 2600 B.C., and on a plaque adorning one of the lyres in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, in the hand of a sitting monkey. It is therefore earlier in Mesopotamia than in Egypt, although this has not prevented Sachs from maintaining its Egyptian origin. Another form of sistrum consists of a rectangular bronze frame adorned on its peri- phery with little animals. It is attested in pre-Hittite Anatolia about 2100 B.C. /=\

“Cymbals. Small, massive cymbals, probably representing originals of bronze, are depicted on a Babylonian plaque (British Museum inv. no. 91 906); the type survives in Graeco-Roman art. They are held in each hand and struck in a horizontal movement. Another form, seen on Assyrian and Hittite reliefs, is conical and struck vertically. Many bells in silver or gold or bronze were in use in the Late Period in Egypt and the Near East (Rimmer 1969: 37-8). There is a large Assyrian bell, richly adorned, in the Berlin Museum.” /=\

Drums in Mesopotamia

Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin wrote: “A giant drum, nearly 1-70 m. in diameter, is depicted on several Sumerian reliefs, notably in the Louvre. It was probably played on ritual occasions. A low kettle- drum, dating from the first half of the fourth millennium, is perhaps depicted on a seal impression found at Chogha Mish in Elam. The footed-type was also used by the Babylonians (British Museum inv. no. 91 906). A portable drum, about 1 m. in diameter and carried with a leather thong, was known to the Hittites. [Source: “Music in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt by Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin, World Archaeology, Volume 12, 1981 - Issue 3, Pages 287-297 /=]

“Amongst smaller instruments, a number of round timbrels are found in all periods. There is a square one on a bronze situla of the second millennium (British Museum inv. no. 128 620). An arm-pit drum is depicted on the Bismya vase. Three types of small drums were attached to the belt. One, barrel-shaped, is seen on an Elamite cylinder seal of the first millennium (Louvre inv. no. 58 2184); of the other two, used in the great Assyrian procession of Elamite musicians from Nineveh in the British Museum, one has its body straight, the other is conical, with a single nailed skin. /=\

“Neither in Mesopotamia nor in Egypt were drums, even the largest ones, ever played with a stick. This accessory, probably of Indian origin, does not appear until the Roman period in the third century a.d. /=\

Flutes and Horns in Mesopotamia

Assyrian musicians

Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin wrote: “Flutes. In Mesopotamia the long vertical flute is attested from Sumerian times on...Animals playing various instruments were depicted also in Mesopotamia, Elam and Mitani. Their inspiration seems less religious than facetious. [Source: “Music in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt by Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin, World Archaeology, Volume 12, 1981 - Issue 3, Pages 287-297 /=]

“Oboes. In Mesopotamia two silver pipes, now in the University Museum, Philadelphia* have been found at Ur, one of which has four finger-holes, the other only one (cf. Rimmer 1969: 35-6). Clarinets. Missing in Mesopotamia, the pipe with a single vibrating tongue was very popular in pairs as early as the Old Kingdom in Egypt, /=\

“Horns and trumpets. In Mesopotamia a pair of possible horns seems to take part in the concert depicted on the Chogha Mish seal impression. The Hittites had short trumpets shown on reliefs at Eyuk and Carchemish and may be regarded as ancestors to the Jewish shofar. The ivory horn, or olifant, appears in Syria as far back as the fourteenth century B.C., where in one example in Damascus it is carved in the effigy of a woman (Duchesne-Guillemin 1969a). /=\

“Pan-pipes . A Hittite relief in the Louvre shows an instrument with six equal pipes* which must have been stopped at different levels in order to produce different pitches. The instrument, common in Greece, was introduced from there into Egypt in the Graeco-Roman period.” /=\

Harps in Mesopotamia

Assyrian prisoners playing lyres

Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin wrote: “These are the most interesting instruments of the Ancient Near East, thanks to their elaborate structure, decoration, variety, and subsequent diffusion both westwards into the Mediterranean countries and eastwards into Asia. [Source: “Music in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt by Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin, World Archaeology, Volume 12, 1981 - Issue 3, Pages 287-297 /=]

“The Sumerian harp is bow-shaped, recalling its origin: the musical bow. The sounding-box is constituted either of the whole bow or the lower part of it. The musician, holds it against his shoulder, with the strings away from him. He plucks them with his fingers, without a plectrum. Splendid harps, adorned with gold and semi- precious stones were excavated in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. The great number of the strings, varying from eleven to fifteen, implies a highly developed music. Some musicologists have inferred from the harps with only four or five strings depicted on seals and plaques that these were the original type and that music was in the penta» tonal or tetratonal stage. But the small number of strings is more likely to have been due to the impossibility of representing more on such small-scale objects: the remains excavated show the real number of strings. /=\

“In the Babylonian period, the Sumerian harp was modified by adding a string-holder that pierces at a right angle the lower end of the body. The latter is very large and has sound-holes. The strings are very numerous and again were plucked without a plectrum . They were adopted by the Assyrians and Persians, from whence, it has been argued, they reached China and Japan. /=\

“A second type of Sumerian harp appears on the Bismya vase (see plate 42). Unlike the first it is held horizontally. The sounding-box is held under the left arm and is elongated into a curved neck, both forming an arch to which the strings are attached. The essential difference is that this one is played with a stock-shaped plectrum. /=\

“The horizontal harp was taken over by the Babylonians, either without change or with the arch or bow replaced by a support stuck at an angle into the forepart of the sounding-box. This angular horizontal harp is known in Iran con- temporaneously with the Sumerian period in Mesopotamia. Later, it is commonly depicted on Assyrian and Elamite reliefs. In its bowed-shape type it spread widely both eastwards, to India, Burma and Java, and westwards, to Minoan Crete (Duchesne-Guillemin 1968: an example in the Heraklion Museum is erroneously labelled as a boat), ancient Greece and Rome (Pompeii), but in the West it remained rare. It is totally absent from Egypt; Hickmann (1961) has misinterpreted depictions of vertical harps. Its presence in black Africa is due to the commercial relations of that continent with Indonesia in the Middle Ages.” /=\

Lyres in Mesopotamia

Queen Shub-Ab's harp from Ur

Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin wrote: Lyres. A lyre, in the wide sense of the term, comprising, in Greece, the kithara and the lyra, is made of a sounding-box of various shapes, from the upper side of which two arms project upwards. The extremities of the arms are joined by a cross-bar. The strings are fastened at the base of the box, then run parallel to the front of it, over a bridge that transmits their vibration to the box, and continue between the arms to be finally twisted round the cross-bar, where their tension can be modified. [Source: “Music in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt by Marcelle Duchesne Guillemin, World Archaeology, Volume 12, 1981 - Issue 3, Pages 287-297 /=]

“The shape of the Sumerian lyre is reminiscent of its sacred, totemic origin, for the body is that of an animal - a bull or a ram - whose head juts out, away from the player (see plate 34). There is even, on occasion, a second animal above the head, as in the Tello relief in the Louvre. The instrument is large, be it portable or standing on the ground. As early as the third millennium, the strings number up to eleven. The lyres found in the Royal Tombs at Ur are richly decorated in gold and lapis-lazuli. /=\

“From the beginning of the second millennium onwards Babylonia preserves the Sumerian tradition of great lyres standing on the ground - as can be seen on the Larsa sherd in the Baghdad Museum and the Ishali plaque in the Oriental Institute, Chicago - but the animal shape has become rare. A Hittite vase from Inandyk in the Ankara Museum is unique in that it shows one of these enormous lyres played by two musicians simultaneously. A third type has an oblique cross-bar as with the silver lyre from Ur with a standing stag. The type with an animal figure survives until the sixth century B.C. On a Xanthos relief Apollo plays a kithara adorned with animals supporting the arguments for the Sumerian origin of the Greek kithara (Duchesne- Guillemin 1967). /=\

“There is also in Babylonia a smaller, rounded instrument, held either vertically or horizontally. On the basis of a representation in the Louvre (inv. no. 6 780), it was played with a small almond-shaped plectrum. From this fact some musicologists infer that the lyre was West Semitic in origin, since the small horizontal lyres are first seen in Egypt in the hands of a Syrian nomad depicted in a Beni Hassan tomb of the twelfth dynasty. /=\

“In the first millennium, a fourth shape of small lyre, characterized by an oblique cross-bar and asymmetric, contorted arms, appears with the Hittites and the Assyrians ; it may have originated in prehistoric Palestine. A bronze plaque of Phoenician origin, found in Luristan and now in the Archaeological Museum, Teheran, shows a pro- cession of musicians playing that type of instrument, a form never adopted by the Greeks. /=\

“Lutes . A lute has a long neck protruding from the sounding-box. The strings are parallel to the latter, as in the lyre. Moreover, pressure from the fingers on the strings at different levels along the neck shortens at will their vibrating length. Its origin is obscure, but certainly not Sumerian despite two representations. Iran is a possibility because many lutes are represented on terracottas or cylinder seals from Susa. The Babylonian documents show two types of lute. One, rustic, with a very long handle and a small, oval sounding-box as on a cylinder seal in the Louvre; the other is shorter with a more voluminous, nearly rectangular sounding-box. /=\

“Psalteries. A psalterion has its strings parallel to the sound-box and co-extensive with it. It makes its appearance in the eighth century on the evidence of a Phoenician ivory found in Assyria (British Museum inv. no. 118 179). /=\

Tammuz and Flute Playing

Tammuz (Dumuzid) is a sun god perhaps best known as Ishtar’s lover. Originally known as Dumuzid the Shepherd, he was a fertility god closely was associated with crops. In the lean months of summer, when Tammuz resided in the Underworld, people fasted until Tammuz rose from dead and made the world green again. Tammuz was known for his beautiful flute playing.

The myth explaining why Tammuz resides in the Underworld is similar to the Greek story of Demeter and Persephone. In Old Testament times, some people, including Jews, worshiped Tammuz. In the Bible the prophet Ezekiel was disgusted by women in Jerusalem who were “weeping for Tammuz.”

James George Frazer wrote in “The Golden Bough”: “His death appears to have been annually mourned, to the shrill music of flutes, by men and women about midsummer in the month named after him, the month of Tammuz. The dirges were seemingly chanted over an effigy of the dead god, which was washed with pure water, anointed with oil, and clad in a red robe, while the fumes of incense rose into the air, as if to stir his dormant senses by their pungent fragrance and wake him from the sleep of death. In one of these dirges, inscribed “Lament of the Flutes for Tammuz,” we seem still to hear the voices of the singers chanting the sad refrain and to catch, like far-away music, the wailing notes of the flutes.”

“Lament of the Flutes for Tammuz” illustrates what Ezekiel may have seen heard in vision, when in spirit he was brought to the northern gate of the temple and heard women wailing for Tammuz. Ezekiel 8:14 The women were lamenting for Tammuz while the men bowed to the sun in the east.

Assyrian procession

Lament of the Flutes for Tammuz

“Lament of the Flutes for Tammuz” goes:
The lord of destiny(? lives no more, the lord of destiny lives no more.
[Tammuz the.....] lives no more,.....lives no more.
The bewailed one lives no more, the lord of destiny lives no more.
I am queen, my husband lives no more.
5. My son lives no more,
Dagalushumagalanna lives no more.
The lord of Arallu lives no more.
The lord of Durgurgurru lives no more.
The shepherd, the lord Tammuz lives no more.
[Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” Seventh Edition, pg. 533-534,]

“10. The lord, the shepherd of the folds lives no more.
The concort of the queen of heaven lives no more.
The lord of the folds lives no more.
The brother of the mother of wine lives no more.
[He who createsj] the fruit of the land lives no more.
The powerful lord of the land lives no more.
When he slumbers the sheep and lambs slumber also.
When he slumbers the goats and kids slumber also.
As for me, to the abode of the deep will I urn my thoughts,
To the abode of the great ones I turn my thoughts.

“20. O hero, my lord, ah me," I will say,
Food I eat not, I will say,
Watter I drink not, I will say,
My good maiden, I will say,
My good husbandman, I will say,
Thy lord, the exalted one, to the nether world has taken his way,
Thy lord, the exalted one, to the nether world has taken his way.
On account of the exalted one of the nether world, him of the radiant face, yea, radient,
On account of the exalted one of the nether world, him of the dovelike voice, ye, dovelike,
On account of the exalted one, the lord, on account of the lord,

“30. O hero, my lord, ah me, I will say
Food I eat not on account of the lord,
Water I drink not, on account of the lord.
My good maiden, because of the lord,
The hero, your lord has been destroyed.
The god of grain, the child, your lord, has been destroyed.
His kindly look gives peace no more,
His kindly voice imparts cheer no more; his place, like a dog he sleeps;
My lord in his.......slumbers like a raven.
Alone is he, himself,
My lord, for whom the wail is raised.

“'0h my child!' at his vanishing away she lifts up a lament;
'My Damu!' at his vanishing away she lifts up a lament.
'My enchanter and priest!' at his vanishing away she lifts up a lament,
At the shining red cedar, rooted in a spacious place,
In Eanna, above and below, she lifts up a lament.
Like the lament that a house lifts up for its master, lifts she up a lament,
Like the lament that a city lifts up for its lord, lifts she up a lament.
Her lament is the lament for a herb that grows not in the bed,
Her lament is the lament for the corn that grows not in the ear.
Her chamber is a possession that brings forth not a possession,
a weary woman, a weary child, far spent. [Source: “The Golden Bough]

“Her lament is for a great river where no willows grow,
Her lament is for a field, where corn and herbs grow not.
Her lament is for a pool, where fishes grow not
Her lament is for a thicket of reeds, where no reeds grow.
Her lament is for woods, where tamarisks grow not.
Her lament is for a wilderness, where no cypresses grow.
Her lament is for the depth of a garden of trees, where honey and wine grow not.
Her lament is for meadows, where no plants grow.
Her lament is for a palace, where length of life grows not."

The Me, Inanna, Ea and the Gift of Wisdom and Music

The Me were gifts of music and wisdom. Inanna, Genun, and Jubal were given these gift by Enlil, the god of the sky and the head of the Mesopotamian pantheon from about 2500 B.C. Enlil raped his future bride, Ninlil, and was exiled to the nether world. Ninlil followed him and gave birth to the moon god Sin or Nanna. They had three other children who remained in the nether world so that Enlil could return to earth. Nanna was married to Ningal and their children were Inanna and Utu. [Source:]

The ME were invocations or magical incantations. They gave the power of arts, crafts and nation-building skills. The playing of instrumental music was attributed to the "gods." In Babylonian accounts, Enlil came into Genun (Jubal, Jabal, Tubal-Cain, Naamah) and taught them how to play instrumental music, organize choirs, organize dance teams, learn to paint and dress the ladies to make them seductresses.

Enki was in charge of these gifts. The gifts were stored in his "worship center" at Eridu. Inanna complained that she, the female principle, did not receive enough power. She used the old wineskin trick and got Enki drunk and got him to give her the powers. She took them to her worship center at Erech. When Enki sobered up he tried to recover them but did not succeed.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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