Daniel Sánchez Muñoz

Analysis of two terms related with Music in Ancient Mesopotamia: nam-nar and nārūtu(m)

University of Granada

Prof. Dr. Antonio Martín Moreno (Professor of Musicology)

Sumerian and Akkadian texts show us a very rich musical terminology whose meaning, however, is not always pretty clear for scholars dealing with the Mesopotamian music. One of the most controversial terms is the Sumerian nam-nar together with its Akkadian equivalent nārūtu(m). Certainly, this term has been previously defined in many several and different ways, like “(professional) condition of the nar-musician”, “musicianship”, “art of the singing”, “hymnic music” even as “Music”.

In this PhD Project, we will try to prove that, even if the meaning of this couple of terms experimented some changes throughout the long Mesopotamian history (an evolution not previously kept in mind in the previous research), its main meaning was “Music” in a broad sense as sound art and social condition, like in our current concept of “Music”.

For that purpose, we will analyse all the mentions of these two terms in our current Mesopotamian textual documentation, having a group around 50 texts from the Second Dynasty of Lagash until the Late Hellenistic Period of many typologies: administrative, lexical and literary (with different subdivisions: myths, praise hymns and songs, literary letters, astronomical texts, etc.) Many of these texts (some of them recently published) had not been analysed in the previous comments of nam-nar/nārūtu(m), mainly based in the Old Babylonian textual evidence.

Those texts will be individually analysed in this project starting from own editions based in the consultation of current copies/photographs in addition to the consultation of the cuneiform manuscripts in their museums. Later, we precise the context of each mention of these terms by a philological/lexicographical study of the most relevant terms in that excerpt with a final commentary indicating what it might be the best definition for nam-nar/nārūtu(m) in this text.

To prove that the main meaning of these two terms is “Music” is highly relevant, since such type of term is not at all common in the past and current musical cultures of the world, which normally have terms for specific manifestations of the musical activity, like the singing, the instrumental music or some types of recitation which Western people might consider as “music”. Certainly, many of the current terms for “Music” derive, as a last resort, from the Greek mousike (even the Arabic al-musiqa!) However, some Greek texts show that Pythagoras learned “The Arithmetic, the Music (=mousike) and the other Mathematical disciplines” with the magicians from Babylonia (Iamblichus, Pythagora’s Life, 4, 19). In this sense, to have a Sumerian or Akkadian term for “Music” might explain also these Greek texts and, therefore, the evolution of our musical history.

This PhD Dissertation will be the first one in the history of my University. In order to prepare a good project, I have previously taken courses on Assyriology in Spain through the CEPOAT (= Centro de Estudios del Próximo Oriente y Antigüedad Tardía) with Drs. Josué and Daniel Justel, Bárbara Solans and Erica Couto. Concerning my international training, I have previously taken courses in Würzburg (with Prof. Dr. Daniel Schwemer, PD Claus Ambos, Dr. Greta van Buylaere, and Dr. Dahlia Shehata) and Leiden (with Dr. Bram Jagersma, Dr. Jan Gerrit Dercksen, and Dr. Melanie Gross) in addition to studying with Dr. Anne-Caroline Rendu Loisel (Université de Strasbourg) through the Diplôme d’Université de Langues Anciennes (DULA).