THE MUSIC OF ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA
By HENRY GEORGE FARMER
So far as our present knowledge goes, the earliest civilization was that of Mesopotamia, where an amazingly advanced stage of society existed in the fourth millennium B.C. at the very latest. The centre of this cultural elevation was in southern Mesopotamia, a land often called Babylonia, between 30° and 34° north latitude. In the upper part of this land, later called Akkad, was a linguistically Semitic group, while in the lower part there may have been other Semites. Before 4000 B.C. the latter were supplanted by a people called Sumerians, who spoke a non-Semitic tongue so strange that we cannot even say from whence they came. Their land was known as Sumer. The culture of the newcomers is generally considered to have been far in advance of that of the land of their adoption, so much so that it soon influenced both Akkad in the north and contiguous territories. In spite of this, it seems unwise to refer to the people of either Sumer or Akkad, per se, as the creators or stabilizers of this culture, since we know little or nothing of the earlier history of either.
If we view the movement of history in the light of the conditions which increase men's knowledge, it seems that the most potent results are to be found where the greatest number of culture-contacts meet. For this reason, it is of Mesopotamian civilization that we speak, rather than of Sumerian or Akkadian. Thus we are compelled to look beyond strictly geographical limits in our survey of Mesopotamian music of the distant past, for indeed all peoples on what Breasted calls 'the fertile crescent' and its periphery must come within this purview, because it was by reason of admixture of stock, contrasts in habits, diversities in religion, and even friction of interests, that cross- fertilizations of ideas were produced, which made the supreme greatness and vitality of Mesopotamian civilization possible.
Nowadays, when scarcely a month passes without some fresh archaeological discovery, or a new philological deduction being registered, it is difficult to speak with any chronological certainty. That being so, many of the early dates that will be posited in what follows