Tag: barandiaran

14,500-year-old animal paintings discovered in Basque cave

A team of archaeologists recently came across a major series of animal paintings, dating from up to c.14,500 years ago and including horses, bison, goats, and deer, in the Atxurra caves near Berriatua, Bizkaia. There are about 70 etchings in total dating from the Upper Paleolithic era that were previously unknown to modern researchers, most likely due to their remote location, approximately 1,000 feet deep, inside the cave system. The paitings may have contained black coal dust and were made using flint tools.

Check out a report on the findings here. See also a detailed first-hand report on the discovery (in Spanish) here.

The Atxurra cave was first discovered in 1929 and was excavated between 1934 and 1935 by Jose Miguel de Barandiaran, still considered to be the greatest Basque ethnographer of all time. For some wonderful traditional folk tales as well as detailed accounts of many of Barandiaran’s excavations, see Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography.

Flashback Friday: The Disciple of Barandiaran

On November 13, 1914, Julio Caro Baroja, the renowned anthropologist of Basque origin, was born in Madrid, Spain. He was the eldest son of Rafael Caro Raggio and Carmen Baroja Nessi. At a very early age, Julio moved to the Navarrese town of Bera, in the Basque Country. There, he would spend hours with his uncle, the famed author Pío Baroja. During his adolescence, he learned about Basque culture when he began reading books in his uncle’s library and this interest led him to undertake ethnographic research in the Basque Country. As a student of the Basque archaeologist and ethnographer Jose Migel Barandiaran, he quickly became drawn to Basque history and culture. In 1941, he had already completed a doctorate in ancient history. From this moment on, his contribution to Basque anthropology and historiography consisted of publishing numerous books and articles, including The Basques (1949) and Vasconiana (1974). Among other things, Baroja, who was considered a nonconformist scholar, observed Basque society as a synthesis and integration of modernity and tradition. In 1995, Julio Caro Baroja passed away in Bera and was buried in the local cemetery. Born in the context of World War I and dying in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Baroja lived through many of the turbulent events that marked the “short twentieth century,” which also influenced a considerable part of his work on Basque studies.

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From left, Julio Caro Baroja, Joxemiel Barandiaran Aierbe, and Juan Garmendia in Ataun, Gipuzkoa, in the 1970s.

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From left, Eloy Placer, Julio Caro Baroja, William A. Douglass, and Jon Bilbao during the Summer Session Abroad in Uztaritze, Lapurdi, organized by the Basque Studies Program in 1970. Source: Jon Bilbao Basque Library, UNR


For more information and a selection of his works translated into English, check out the book edited and translated by Jesús Azcona, The Selected Essays of Julio Caro Baroja.

Every Friday we look into our Basque archives for interesting historic events that happened on the same day.

Discover the Basque Country: The Sara Caves

For those of you who may be lucky enough to get to visit the Basque Country sometime, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite places with you.

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Entrance to the Sara Caves. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The Basque Country abounds with caves that point to the prehistoric origins of modern Europeans. One of the best prepared cave complexes for visitors lies just outside the beautiful and historic village of Sara (itself well worth a visit) in Lapurdi. The Sara Caves are a actually a complex of different cavities, and there are guided visits to the Lezea Cave, inside Mount Atxuria. Onsite, there is also a free museum highlighting human evolution in the area and a megalithic park in which visitors can see reconstructions of monuments dating back to the  Neolithic Age (4000 to 2500 BCE).

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Jose Miguel de Barandiaran. Photo by Jesus Mari Arzuaga, Oñati City Hall, via Wikimedia Commons

Visitors to the caves (whether in person or just online) will also note the importance of Jose Miguel de Barandiaran. His figure adorns the website, and the guided tour of Lezea Cave is actually dedicated to his memory. Barandiaran (1889-1991) was a pioneering ethnographer who did much to establish the discipline of Basque anthropology and lived to the age of 101. Caves and dolmen excavation were a central feature of his academic work but he also recorded the legends, and superstitions of the Basque people. Although from Ataun (Gipuzkoa), he spent 13 years in exile in Sara during the initial period of the Franco dictatorship, and felt a great attachment to the area.

The diverse nature of Barandiaran’s research, with a biographical introduction by Jesús Altuna, can be seen in Selected Writings of José Miguel de Barandiarán: Basque Prehistory and Ethnography. This is a wonderful collection of articles on a wide range of topics from magic to hunting and includes surveys of the various stages of prehistoric human settlement in the Basque Country.