Category Archives: Basque culture

Virtual visit to Iruña-Veleia

The Town Hall of Iruña-Oka  is the modern heir of the Vasco-Roman town of Veleia, known in medieval times as Iruña: the capital or the city, as happened with other Roman cities: Pompaelo, now Iruñea-Pamplona, Oiasso, now Irun, etc. 
As such, and on light of the continuous mismanagement by higher-level institutions (chartered government of Araba, Western Basque autonomous government), seems to have taken the matter of promoting and explaining the site on their own hands. 
To that effect, along with an already existing webpage with extensive information (in Spanish language mostly), the Town Hall has created a virtual visit site with panoramic views and reenacting illustrations ··> LINK
Needless to say that the Town Hall is not just the only institution taking Iruña-Veleia seriously nowadays but also the only one that seems to give official credibility to the finding of the exceptional graffiti (written in Basque, Vulgar Latin and other languages) performed by Eliseo Gil in 2006 and challenged by a powerful mafia of established linguists with enormous influences.
See also:

First International Conference on Iruña-Veleia

The cultural and linguistic organization Euskararen Jatorria (The Future of the Basque Language) has organized the First International Conference on Iruña-Veleia which will have the presence of important international scholars like the “pope” of modern Archeology Edward Harris, among others.

The conference will be on November 24th in Vitoria-Gasteiz, see below for details.

The program so far is just in Basque language, so I will make a synthetic translation here (large sections skipped and some notes and explanations added by me):


9:00 Inauguration and introduction

Morning season: archeology, archeometry, paleopathology
09:15 Edward Harris: Iruña-Veleia in the context of the revolution in stratigraphic principles in archaeology
09:55 Antonio Rodriguez Colmenero: Grafitos, textos y diseños de la Veleia romana: la urgencia de una solución (Graffiti, texts and designs from Roman Veleia: urgency of a solution)
10:25 Synthesis of the (2007) report  of Julio Núñez (only archaeologist in the official commission and now most controversial Director of the Iruña-Veleia site)
10:45 Coffee break
11:15 Francisco Javier Santos Arévalo: Métodos de datación por isótopos (Dating methods by isotopes)
12:45 Joaquin Baxarias Tibau: Estudio de las marcas antrópicas sobre hueso halladas en el yacimiento romano de Iruña-Veleia (Study on the anthropic marks on bone found in the Roman site of Iruña-Veleia)
12:15 Round table
14:00 Meal
Afternoon season: linguistics and epigraphy
16:30 Luis Silgo Gauche: Las inscripciones de Iruña-Veleia y la estabilidad de la lengua vasca (The inscriptions of Iruña-Veleia and the stability of Basque language)
17:00 Antonio Arnaiz Villena: Las inscripciones íberas en Iruña-Veleia (The Iberian inscriptions in Iruña-Veleia)
17:30 Synthesis of the (2007) reports of Gorrochategui and Lakarra
17:50 Break
18:20 Verbal communications
19:00 Round table
20:00 Closing

Inscription and information

Inquiries and complementary information: (+34) 688 887 301
Cost: 45 euros (with meal). Without meal: 33 euros. Pay to the following accounts in advance and then email to the address above with your full name:

Kutxabank: 2101-0092-16-0012334272

Euskadiko Kutxa: 3035 -0038-91-0380081747

It is not convenient to inscribe yourself in the last moment because the hall is in a restricted access zone.
How to arrive
The conference will take place in Vitoria-Gasteiz, specifically in the Europa Jauregia (Europe Palace), site in Gasteiz Av. (avenida, etorbidea) no. 83.
If you arrive by car (from the North or East), you should exit the highway at the Foronda Airport, take the Foronda Gate (atea, portal) then, at the roundabout, the short Honduras street (kale, calle) and then you should be at Gasteiz Av. There are no parking taxes (OTA) in that area.

If you arrive in bus from Billbao, they recommend to get down in the second stop, at Adriano VI st.
If you arrive to the bus station you can walk across the old quarter (which is on a hill and has small irregular streets apt to get lost, although not too much) or go around it. The walk should take some 20 minutes however. There are regular bus services from the other Basque capitals, as well as several Spanish or other European cities like Madrid, Zurich, Barcelona, etc. (see here).

22nd European Championship of Prehistoric Archery

Aitzbitarte caves (source)
It will be this weekend at the Landarbaso fields, near Aitzbitatrte cave (Orereta, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country). 
According to the brief note at Diario Vasco[es], the reception, inscription and team formation will be this Saturday 14th at 11:00. The competition of dart shooting with atlatl  will be that same the afternoon (16:00-19:00), while the bowmanship contest will take place on Sunday at 19:30. In the afternoon of that day prizes will be awarded. 
So if you happen to be at the beach in Donostia or surfing at Donibane, or maybe tired of running before the bulls at Pamplona or bored of the modern art of Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum… maybe you could have a different weekend watching or even taking part in this prehistoric archery reenactment. 
Megalithic conservation workshop
One of the dolmens to recover (source)
Not far away several foundations (Kutxa Ekogunea and Cultural Service Zehartzen) have organized a free workshop to help recover and put into value as monuments the dolmens (megalithic tombs) that dot the area of Landarbaso (Donostia-San Sebastian). In spite of the coincidence of name (which means “ancestor field”) this is a different area in a different municipality, although just a few kilometers away. 
This workshop is meant for 22 adults, who, in exchange for their collaboration, will get theoretical and direct knowledge of the Megalithic phenomenon and the Copper Age in which it took place. 
It will take place between the 16th and the 31st of July and the end date for inscription is this very friday.
Source: Diario Vasco[es].

Y-DNA of Basque diaspora in Western USA

Hat tip to Jean for this finding.
As the authors wisely assess the most important inference we can get from this study is how a colonial population diverges from that of the homeland. The Basque colony in North America is not too large (58,000 in all the USA), albeit significant specially in Idaho, Nevada and to lesser extent California (larger numbers but smaller apportion), and the origin is biased towards a single region: the Northern Basque Country (under French rule).
However the results show that they represent very well the ancestral homeland’s haplotypes, only tested in the Southern Basque Country, diverging only somewhat:

Fig. 1 Median-joining haplotype tree: white European Basque (West), black American Basque

This is a good example of how a normal colonial population, even if reduced in founders and numbers, behaves in relation to the ancestral one: it retains most of the lineages. No marked founder effects are apparent anywhere.

Our results demonstrate a very high-level of conservation of the Y chromosome haplotypes characteristic of the European autochthonous Basque population among individuals of the Basque diaspora in the Western USA. No signs of founder haplotypes have been found…

Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Basque culture, USA, Y-DNA


Otxandio, ‘the first Gernika’

While the bombing of Gernika on April 1937 became known worldwide, it was not the only civilian massacre perpetrated by the fascist winged criminals in those years. A less known episode is achieving recognition as of late thanks to the effort of historian Zigor Olabarria, concerned by the loss of memory as the survivors from that terrible era die from old age: the massacre of Otxandio.
On July 22 1936, just four days after the fascist coup, in the mountain village of Otxandio, Biscay, nobody was still really concerned or truly aware of what was going on. The fact that it was the local holidays, Santa Marina, had the people quite distracted in any case: it was still time to dance and party… or so they thought. 
There were anyhow some militiamen in the center of the village cooking breakfast. 
Early in the morning two small airplanes flew over the town, they greeted and were answered in kind. When they dropped something everybody thought they would be leaflets. But they were bombs.
61 people were killed, mostly women and children. One of the bombers was born in the nearby city of Orduña, his name was Ángel Salas Larrazabal, the other pilot was José Muñoz Jiménez. Salas was congratulated by the rebel General Mola for his feat, he was later appointed Senator by King Juan Carlos I and even made Captain General (the highest ranking in the Spanish Army) in 1991. He died in bed in 1994. 
Sources and further information (in Spanish): Otxandio Town Hall, Deia newspaper, Sare Antifaxista. Watch also for the publication (in Basque) of the booklet Gerra Zibila Otxandion (The Civil War in Otxandio), which is being presented today in that village.

74th anniversary of the destruction of Gernika

Gernika Oak (source)

Gernika is the only town I know in the Basque Country that lacks of an old quarter. Everything, excepting some peripheral buildings, is new, built in the last seventy or so years.

Gernika and not Guernica, mind you, because Gernika is the Basque spelling and also the Spanish spelling Guernica is misleading in English, making people mispronounce Gwarnikah, when it is actually Garnikah – pronunciation is exactly the same in both languages: Basque and Spanish, only spelling changes. 
74 years ago the town of Gernika, the historical capital of Biscay, was totally destroyed by the systematic bombardment by the Nazi Condor Legion, sent to support the fascists in spite of the supposed international embargo to both fighting sides. This fact underlines that United Kingdom (more or less reluctantly seconded by France) supported the Fascist side in the Spanish Civil War, by means of impeding the legitimate government from getting international support (only some lesser, costly and highly conditional Soviet support arrived besides the enthusiastic but ill equipped international brigades), while the Fascists got all the support they wanted and more from Italy and Nazi Germany.

Before the destruction (source)
In fact they were Italian brigades the ones that marched over most of Biscay after German airplanes bombed not just Gernika but also Durango and other localities. In fact it was largely an Italian and German full fledged invasion with the complacency of Great Britain, who forced France to accept this arrangement (and later used it as cannon fodder against Germany in WWII anyhow). 
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H25224, Guernica, Ruinen74 years ago, in April 26 1937, at 15:37, sirens scared the town. It was monday, market day. For the first time in history a town was totally razed by an air bombardment. Years later, as other cities like Dresden or Hiroshima were also totally razed in the course of WWII, Gernika would seem by comparison pecata minuta, but in it its day it truly impressed the global collective psyche. It was not so much the few thousand dead (not many compared with the million who died in the whole war) but the fact that a civilian town had been so barbarically razed, looking to cause terror rather than military goals. 
In addition the town, as historical capital of Biscay, held and still holds an oak tree that was symbol of Basque freedoms, under which the Parliament of Biscay had been gathering since memory exists, since at least the 11th century (eventually a building was built by the tree). and where the monarchs of Castile (later Spain) took oath of respecting the Basque self-rule. Then of course the painting by Picasso also helped to emphasize the horror and confusion that such a war crime caused all around.


A few days later the Italian columns took the whole district, marching on an ill defended Bilbao, from where I now write these lines, and from there westwards to Cantabria and eventually Asturias too. Eventually they would take the whole state, ending the Republic and suppressing the long-lived self-rule of Biscay and Gipuzkoa. The scars of this war and the fascist dictatorship that ensued for decades, effectively destroying two generations, still persist. 

Because, Gandhi dixit, violence engenders violence.

The “Guernica” to Gernika (in Gernika)

Prehistoric Aquitaine: exposition at Baiona (Bayonne)

The Basque Museum of Baiona (Bayonne in French) will welcome for two months the exposition Aquitaine préhistorique – Historiaurreko Akitania (Prehistoric Aquitaine), gathering some of the most fascinating stuff and information from European prehistory. 
Among the elements in this educative show are the famous Lady of Brassempouy (left) and more than 2,000 other  archaeological objects from the heartland of European Paleolithic.
For example this beautiful engraving of an auroch from Erango cave (Lower Navarre):

The exhibition will be at Baiona between March 22nd and May 22nd and has already been at Bordeaux’ Museum of Aquitaine.

Excellent synthesis of the situation of the Iruña-Veleia controversy at Noticias de Alava

Historian Estitxu Briñas (also member of the SOS Iruña-Veleia association)  has today published an article at Noticias de Alava, in which the pitiful and highly embarrassing situation of the Iruña-Veleia scandal is synthesized masterfully.
Those readers with knowledge of Spanish language may want to read the original article: Iruña-Veleia: todavía estamos a tiempo. For the rest, I will try to synthesize here the main points.
Briñas congratulates for the cessation of the former Deputy (provincial minister) of Culture, Lorena López de Lacalle (on unrelated political issues) because she is clearly the main political actor in this shameful abuse. She expresses her hope that this circumstance offers an opportunity to straighten the wrongdoings of the last two years.
The first and main wrong was the Foral Order of November 19th 2008 by which the former archaeological company in charge of the Vasco-Roman urban site, Lurmen, saw its excavation permit removed, the site was closed and the state attorney is asked to proceed against the archaeologists.

It would be too long to describe the many irregularities in which the Provincial Government incurred in such fateful day, suffice to say that the decision was adopted when only one of the ten reports of the Commission had been handed in and that the final conclusions, included in little more than half a sheet, were written by a provincial public servant; these needed to be redacted before the meeting because they were given to Eliseo Gil [the chief archaeologist] at the exit and the signatory public servant was present in that meeting.

The fact that the judge in charge has been demanding for some time that scientific analysis of the exceptional findings are performed is clear indication that the alleged falsification is not proven at all.
She proposes that the Provincial Government sends the artifacts (mostly inscribed shards, in Basque and Vulgar Latin, along some drawings) to some European laboratory specialized in archaeometry.
She also says that the ten Commission’s reports do not at any moment prove the alleged falsehood of the graffiti. (Actually most are only linguistic speculation with zero probatory value). In contrast, there are 16 reports, performed by prestigious scientists, that support that the artifacts are most likely genuine, including one by prestigious Bermudan archaeologist Edward C. Harris. These reports add up to 1800 pages have all been created altruistically without pocketing a single cent, while those of the Commission are of barely 400 pages and each one had a cost of €1800 to the taxpayer.
A further issue, denounced also by me, is the method of excavation of Julio Núñez, the new director of Iruña-Veleia and a member of the Commission (the only archaeologist in a mostly linguistic array of “experts”). As you may know Núñez mechanically excavated in few days a whole section of the site down to 1.5 meters, dumping all the archaeological layers without any consideration into rubbish piles, which cannot anymore produce an stratigraphy of any sort and even damaging some of the structures (see video below).
Also, Briñas informs us that SOS Iruña-Veleia has contacted a reputed European laboratory which would perform the analysis, with guarantee of conclusive results and no damage to the pieces, on ten key items for the price of €12,000, cost that SOS Iruña-Veleia offers to pay. This analysis could well be complementary to the one by scientific police, ordered by the judge but delayed by the Provincial Government, which has ignored the order. 
Finally, the historian retakes the question asked by the former Deputy López de Lacalle: how would the reputation of the University of the Basque Country end if a new commission of experts is called and new analysis are performed? Precisely that is the crux of the matter: how the Basque academy has been able to bring such a shame on themselves, not clarifying the doubts but performing a mere, corrupt, paperwork routine to make sure that the findings would be declared false without any evidence.
Further information in English:
In other languages:

Test (preliminary post)

This will be my new blog on Prehistory, Anthropology and Population Genetics, replacing Leherensuge, which has served me (and hopefully my readers too) well for the last two or three years.

The title is taken from the famous sentence of Pio Baroja: For what they were we are, for what we are they will be.

The main reason why I have delayed splitting Leherensuge in two is that I could not find cool names for both branching-out blogs. Finally Baroja’s phrase, one of my favorite sayings, came to me a few days ago and I decided it was the way to go.

Obviously, my other main blog, the one dedicated to current affairs, Basque and global ongoing reality and hopes for a better future will be named For what we are, they will be.

I still have to finish some details in the design but unless something goes really wrong suddenly in my life or the Internet, this blog and its nemesis will be active in few days.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 22, 2010 in Basque culture, blogging