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The Epic of Gilgamesh, sung in ancient Sumerian

Osama Shukir Muhammed/CC

Daniel Esparza - published on 03/31/17

Often considered to be the earliest surviving work of literature, it was also meant to be sung.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient Mesopotamic poem, often considered to be the earliest surviving work of literature. According to most scholars, it dates back to the times of the Third Dynasty of Ur (circa 2100 B.C.) and is composed of five Sumerian poems about “Bilgamesh” (the Sumerian form of the name “Gilgamesh”), king of Uruk, which were later on compiled into a single epic poem.

In this video, the Canadian musician Peter Pringle plays the gish-gu-di (a Sumerian three-string lute) and sings the first lines of the epic poem in ancient Sumerian, a language that almost had almost died out by the 20th century BC. Some of our knowledge of Sumerian, though, we owe to the fact that it was, for centuries, the lingua franca of the Ancient Near East, as explained in the post published by Realm of History.

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