Category Archives: AFRICA

The Hurrian Hymn was discovered in the 1950s on a clay tablet inscribed with Cuneiform text. It’s the oldest surviving melody and is over 3400 years old.

Listen to the oldest song in the world which was written 3,400 years ago

In the early 1950s, archaeologists unearthed several clay tablets from the 14th century B.C.E. Found, WFMU tells us, “in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit,” these tablets “contained cuneiform signs in the Hurrian language,” which turned out to be the oldest known piece of music ever discovered, a 3,400-year-old cult hymn.

Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, professor of Assyriology at the University of California, produced the interpretation above in 1972. (She describes how she arrived at the musical notation—in some technical detail—in this interview.)

Since her initial publications in the 60s on the ancient Sumerian tablets and the musical theory found within, other scholars of the ancient world have published their own versions.

The piece writes Richard Fink in a 1988 Archeologia Musicalis article, confirms a theory that “the 7-note diatonic scale, as well as harmony, existed 3,400 years ago.”

This, Fink tells us, “flies in the face of most musicologist’s views that ancient harmony was virtually non-existent (or even impossible) and the scale only about as old as the Ancient Greeks.”

Kilmer’s colleague Richard Crocker claims that the discovery “revolutionized the whole concept of the origin of western music.” So, academic debates aside, what does the oldest song in the world sound like? Listen to a midi version below and hear it for yourself.

Doubtless, the midi keyboard was not the Sumerians instrument of choice, but it suffices to give us a sense of this strange composition, though the rhythm of the piece is only a guess.

Kilmer and Crocker published an audiobook on vinyl (now on CD) called Sounds From Silence in which they narrate information about ancient Near Eastern music, and, in an accompanying booklet, present photographs and translations of the tablets from which the song above comes.

They also give listeners an interpretation of the song, titled “A Hurrian Cult Song from Ancient Ugarit,” performed on a lyre, an instrument likely much closer to what the song’s first audiences heard.

Unfortunately, for that version, you’ll have to make a purchase, but you can hear a different lyre interpretation of the song by Michael Levy below, as transcribed by its original discoverer Dr. Richard Dumbrill.

Rare 3.8-million-year-old skull recasts origins of iconic ‘Lucy’ fossil

Rare 3.8-million-year-old skull recasts origins of iconic ‘Lucy’ fossil

The African skull aged 3.8 million years old is giving researchers a peek into humanity’s evolutionary history, a new study suggests.

The discovery explains what the face of a possible ancestor of the species famously represented by Lucy – the well-known Ethiopian skeleton discovered in the mid-1970s – may have looked like.

This thesis has been published in the British journal Nature, which was reviewed by superiors. The fossil cranium represents a specimen from a time interval between 4.1 and 3.6 million years ago when early human ancestor fossils are extremely rare, researchers say.

“The preservation of the specimen really is exceptional,” study co-author Stephanie Melillo, a palaeoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told Nature. The skull was found in just two large pieces, which she says is unfathomably unlikely for a specimen of this age. “We just got really lucky with this find.”

The study was led by Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. 

According to Nature, the scientists who discovered the skull say it was a male and belongs to a species called Australopithecus anamensis.

A reconstruction of the facial morphology of the 3.8 million-year-old ‘MRD’ specimen of Australopithecus anamensis

That ancestral species is the oldest known member of Australopithecus, a grouping of creatures that preceded our own branch of the family tree, called Homo.

It was also thought to precede Lucy’s species, which is known as Australopithecus afarensis.

But features of the latest find now suggest that the new fossil’s species shared the prehistoric Ethiopian landscape with Lucy’s species, for at least 100,000 years, the study authors say. This hints that the early evolutionary tree was more complicated than scientists had thought, Nature said.

The species of the famous fossil Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis, might have coexisted with another ancient hominin species.

This overlap challenges the widely-accepted idea of a linear transition between these two early human ancestors. “This is a game-changer in our understanding of human evolution during the Pliocene,” Haile-Selassie said.

“What we’ve known about Australopithecus anamensis so far was limited to isolated jaw fragments and teeth,” he said during a press conference. “We didn’t have any remains of the face or the cranium except for one small fragment near the ear region.”

The age of the fossil was determined to be 3.8 million years old and was done by dating minerals in layers of volcanic rocks nearby.

The fossil was found in 2016, in what was once sand deposited in a river delta on the shore of a lake in Woranso-Mille in Ethiopia. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted the rest of the cranium. It was a eureka moment and a dream come true,” said Haile-Selassie.

Experts unconnected to the new study praised the work. Eric Delson of Lehman College in New York called the fossil “beautiful” and said the researchers did an impressive job of reconstructing it digitally to help determine its place in the evolutionary tree.

3000-Year-Old Pharaoh Ramses II Statue Found In Cairo Slum, And It’s “One Of The Most Important Discoveries Ever”

3000-Year-Old Pharaoh Ramses II Statue Found In Cairo Slum, And It’s “One Of The Most Important Discoveries Ever”

The massive 26 ft (8 meters) statue was found in the groundwater of a Cairo slum by archaeologists from Egypt and Germany. It is likely to represent revered Pharaoh Ramses II, who controlled Egypt more than three thousand years ago, researchers say.

The find was made near the remnants of the temple of Ramses II, in the old city of Héliopolis in the eastern part of modern Cairo, one of the most significant ever by the Minister for Antiquities.

The minister of antiquities, Khaled al-Anani, told Reuters on the site for an unveiling of the statue, they called me to announce a big discovery of a colossus made from quartzite, most likely from Ramses II.

Ramses the Great was the most powerful and celebrated ruler of ancient Egypt.  Known by his successors as the ‘Great Ancestor’, he led several military expeditions and expanded the Egyptian Empire to stretch from Syria in the east to Nubia in the south.  

He was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt and ruled from 1279 to 1213 BCE. 

‘We found the bust of the statue and the lower part of the head and now we removed the head and we found the crown and the right ear and a fragment of the right eye,’ Anani said.

Archaeologists, officials, local residents, and members of the news media looked on as a massive forklift pulled the statue’s head out of the water

The joint Egyptian-German expedition, which included the University of Leipzig, also found the upper part of a life-sized limestone statue of Pharaoh Seti II, Ramses II’s grandson, which is 80 centimeters long.

The statue believed to depict the legendary Pharaoh Ramses II, measure 8 meters long and was submerged in groundwater
A partial statue of Pharaoh Seti II, Ramses II’s grandson, and pieces of an obelisk were also recovered from the site
Ramses II believed that the world was created in Heliopolis, now known as Matariya, the slum where this statue was found
These monumental findings were unearthed by a team of German and Egyptian archaeologists, and are currently being restored

The sun temple in Heliopolis was founded by Ramses II, which increases the likelihood the statue is of him, archaeologists say. It was one of the largest temples in Egypt, almost double the size of Luxor’s Karnak, but was destroyed in Greco-Roman times. 

Many of its obelisks were moved to Alexandria or to Europe and stones from the site were looted and used for building as Cairo developed. Experts will now attempt to extract the remaining pieces of both statues before restoring them.

If they are successful and the colossus is proven to depict Ramses II, it will be moved to the entrance of the Grand Egyptian Museum, set to open in 2018. 

The discovery was made in the working-class area of Matariya, among unfinished buildings and mud roads.

Dietrich Raue, head of the expedition’s German team, told Reuters that ancient Egyptians believed Heliopolis was the place where the sun god lives, meaning it was off-limits for any royal residences.

‘The sun god created the world in Heliopolis, in Matariya. That’s what I always tell the people here when they say is there anything important. According to the pharaonic belief, the world was created in Matariya,’ Raue said.

Matariya is believed to be the site of the Ancient Egyptian sun temples, which were built to worship Ra, the god of the sun
The sun temples were purportedly double the size of Luxor’s Karnak but were destroyed during Greco-Roman times

‘That means everything had to be built here. Statues, temples, obelisks, everything. But … the king never lived in Matariya, because it was the sun god living here.’

The find could be a boon for Egypt’s tourism industry, which has suffered many setbacks since the uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 but remains a vital source of foreign currency. 

The number of tourists visiting Egypt slumped to 9.8 million in 2011 from more than 14.7 million in 2010.

A bomb attack that brought down a Russian plane carrying 224 people from a Red Sea resort in October 2015 further hit arrivals, which dropped to 1.2 million in the first quarter of 2016 from 2.2 million a year earlier.

Untouched and Unlooted 4,400-yr-old Tomb of Egyptian High Priest Discovered

Untouched and Unlooted 4,400-yr-old Tomb of Egyptian High Priest Discovered

Egyptian archaeologists discovered the tomb of a priest dating back more than 4,400 years in the pyramid complex of Saqqara south of the capital Cairo.

Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany told an audience of invited guests, including AFP reporters: “It is exceptionally well preserved, coloured, with sculpture inside. It belongs to a high official priest…and is more than 4,400 years old,” he said.

Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enani at a news conference at the site of discovery

The tomb was found in a buried ridge at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. It was untouched and unlooted, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters at the site, according to Reuters. Saqqara served as the necropolis for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt for more than two millennia.

The tomb belongs to “Wahtye,” a high priest who served during the fifth dynasty reign of King Neferirkare, the antiquities ministry said.

The tomb is 10 metres (33 feet) long, three metres wide and just under three metres high, Waziri said.

View of newly discovered Egyptian tomb belonging to high priest ‘Wahtye’

The walls are decorated with hieroglyphs and statues of pharaohs. Waziri said the tomb was unique because of the statues and its near perfect condition.

“The colour is almost intact even though the tomb is almost 4,400 years old,” he said.

Archaeologists removed a last layer of debris from the tomb on Thursday and found five shafts inside, Waziri said.

One of the shafts was unsealed with nothing inside, but the other four were sealed. They are expecting to make discoveries when they excavate those shafts starting on Sunday, he said. He was hopeful about one shaft in particular.

“I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area,” he said, pointing at one of the sealed shafts. “This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb.”

The frieze on the wall of the Egyptian tomb depicting livestock

In November, archaeology officials announced the discovery in Saqqara of seven sarcophagi, some dating back more than 6,000 years, during excavation work started in April by the same archaeological mission.

Three of those tombs contained mummified cats and scarabs.

Ancient Egyptians mummified humans to preserve their bodies for the afterlife, while animal mummies were used as religious offerings. The Saqqara necropolis is also home to the famous Djoser pyramid, a 4,600-year-old construction that dominates the site and was Egypt’s first stone monument.

The tomb, built by the master architect Imhotep for the Pharoah Djoser, stood 62 metres tall originally and is considered the oldest building in the world built entirely of stone.

Egypt has revealed over a dozen ancient discoveries this year.

The country hopes the finds will brighten its image abroad and revive interest among travellers who once flocked to its iconic pharaonic temples and pyramids but who fled after the 2011 political uprising.

Prehistoric Clay Coffin Burials Uncovered in Northern Egypt

83 ancient graves discovered in Egypt’s Nile Delta

According to a statement by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Egyptian Archeological Mission, which is accredited by the Supreme Council of Antiquity, has confirmed that 83 graves had been found during archaeological excavations in the Koam Al-khiljan area of the Governorate of Daqahliya in Egypt.

According to Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mostafa al-Waziri, 80 of these graves are dated back to the first half of the 4th Millennium BC, in Egypt called the Buto culture, a former city southeast of Alexandria in the Nile Delta (today Lower Egypt).

The graves are in the form of oval-shaped pits, inside which are burials designed in a squatting position rather than a sleeping position. Traditional funerary items were found buried as well, he added.

The other three graves discovered date back to Naqada III, an era from approximately 3200 BC to 3000 BC that is sometimes referred to as the protodynastic period and which saw major strides in state formation in ancient Egypt.

The Kingdoms of Lower and Upper Egypt were eventually united under the rule of a single Pharaoh around 2686 BC.

Two clay coffins were discovered as well inside the second groups of graves, which, like the others, contained burials designed in the squatting position surrounded by various funerary items, according to Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector.

The mission also found in the three tombs dating back to Naqada III two bowls used for kohl (eyeliner).

This is the first time coffins made of clay have been uncovered in the Daqahliya Governorate, Waziry noted, adding that the site must have witnessed heavy human activity during the eras of Naqada III and Buto. He said he expects more coffins of this type to be discovered at the archaeological site in the future.

The funerary artifacts discovered at the site included a collection of small, hand-made pottery, in addition to oyster shells, Ashmawy said.

Some of the discovered artifacts dated back to the second transitional period (the Hyksos period), including ovens and stoves, the remains of foundations of mud-brick buildings, four mud-brick burials, some pottery and stone utensils, and amulets and other ornaments made of semi-precious stones, according to Head of the archaeological mission and Director General of the Daqahliya Antiquities Fatehy al-Talhawy.