(From the Appendix to ORIGIN OF MUSIC, 3rd ed., by BOB FINK 1980)
As ancient musicians developed the scale & melody a sense of "key" or "tonality" also developed. (Formerly ancient musicians paid more attention to the beauties of single tones, gongs, etc., without much sense of notes being "connected" into melodies.)
Early attempts at harmony, such as drones (used in Scottish or other bagpipes, or as one of the two "double flutes" in ancient Greece, for example), could have been an attempt to make a sense of "keynote" more audible. The accidental harmonies (and dissonances) resulting from this were a step beyond the earliest harmonies formed by singing the same chant or melody an octave apart (or at 5ths apart called "organum"). In organum, the voices all move up or down to conform to the single melody.
With a drone, however, one voice carries a melody independently of the drone accompaniment. It is not hard to expect that some modifications of the drone (making it, historically speaking, become more of a melody unto itself) paved the way to early "counterpoint," which is the singing or combining of separate independent melodies rather than combining the same melody at different pitches to suit different voice ranges as in organum.
Melodies were the most important feature for early musicians, and so they were able to accept the mix of the accidental harmonies and discords formed by the separate melodies, so long as it all created a tolerable whole.
The centuries-long fascination of musicians with this counterpoint eventually led to the discovery of separate chords which were abstracted from the spontaneous harmonies formed by the criss-crossing melodies within the counterpoint. Later, the modern concept of simply adding chords to harmonize a single melody was developed.
None of this could have occurred until scales & the concept of melody (and a sense of key or tonality, which connects notes to make them into melody) had fully evolved. Now that the earliest song places the diatonic scale much earlier in history, many of the early forms of harmony become more explicable.

Updated Mar 2003-- Two New Books on Music Origins & Music Archaeology

* Origin of Music
* Harmony in Ancient Music
* Natural Basis to Scale
* 4o,ooo Year-Old Neanderthal Flute Matches Notes in Do, Re, Mi Scale --by Bob Fink
* Oldest Song in the World
* The Nature of Ethnomusicology
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