What is the first guitar-like instrument?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While many theories have been advanced regarding the first stringed instrument that was the predecessor of the guitar, it is generally agreed that the lute is the ancestor of the modern guitar.  However, another theory advances the Greek kithara as the predecessor of the guitar.  But, research shows these theories to be unreliable as the lute evolved from a type of guitar.

The oldest preserved guitar is from the Egyptian age; it belonged to singer Har-Mose.  Buried with his tanbur near his employer Sen-Mut, who was the architect for Queen Hatshepsut, Har-Mose lived around 3500 years ago. (The queen was crowned in 1503 B.C.)  This instrument of three strings can be viewed in the Archaeological Museum  of Cairo, Egypt, today.

Defining a guitar,Dr. Michael Kashas, who did research in the 1960s, said, it has "a long, fretted neck, flat wooden soundboard, ribs, and a flat back, most often with incurved sides." With this definition as the standard, the oldest representation of this instrument that displays all the basic features of a guitar can be found is in a stone carving in Turkey of a 3300 year old Hittite "guitar" with "a long fretted neck, flat top, flat back, and with strikingly incurved sides".