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When the year 1889 had almost come to an end, more specifically on the last day of that year, Mr. José Miguel de Barandiarán was born in the Perune-Zarre country house in Ataun. He was the last of Francisco Antonio Barandiarán and María Antonia Ayerbe's nine children. Two of the five sons had died in childhood and three of the four daughters had become nuns.

It was José Miguel's father who bought the country house and the fields they farmed and which had previously rented. Apart from being a farmer, he was also a cattle raiser. José Miguel remembers how his father, coming back from the Alsasua or Ordizia livestock fairs, put the money earned in view of the whole family. They were not rich, but they did not suffer from hardship either.

Most families in Ataun were farmers, at that time. Out of the 1,000 inhabitants living in the area of S. Gregorio, there were no more than 20 people who could write their signature.

By the time José Miguel was born, the first bus between Ataun and Beasain had started to run, but still during the first decade of this century, those who used this bus were considered to be wealthy.

The Spanish language was only spoken by the priests and some rich people. It was considered to be the language of the rich and learned.

The atmosphere of the village and its people was filled with mythical and magical experiences. Children greeted the moon calling it "Illargi amandrea" (Mother Moon). They thought that there was a bridge in the village which had been built by Mikolas. In ancient times, the "lamias" used to live under this bridge and witches washed their clothes in the river during nights of the full moon. They also believed that Tartalo, the one eyed cannibal, had lived in the caves nearby and that the "basajaun" (the lord of the wood) lived in the woods.

All these beliefs were alive in the feelings of people and some customs or practices, like protecting the house with branches of hawthorn and ash on the eve of S. Juan or finding protection against witches by placing the eguzki-lore (sunflower) at the front door of a country house, were very common.

Nevertheless, all this was carried out in an atmosphere filled with Christian traditions. Religious vocations were very common. José Miguel's family used to read the lives of the Saints regularly while they shelled corn.

It was in this Christian environment, filled with very ancient myths and traditions, where José Miguel spent his childhood.

José Miguel has always had very vivid memories of this childhood and has always shown a deep bond with his people and home town. While in exile in Sara, he used to visit Larrun, because he could see Ernio from that place and from Ernio he could see the house where he was born. This bond had the memories and nostalgia of his family as a central and main axis. He said it himself: "This warmth of the family leaves deep traces in most cases, above all in the children of the Basque country houses. As this affection is so intense, so constant, it is almost the only one that feeds the life of a man for a long time".

So, let's continue with his family. His father couldn't read or write, but he knew what he wanted. The organist of the village told him that one of his daughters had a liking and a gift for music and thus, without thinking twice, he bought her a piano. A piano which arrived in an oxcart to a Basque country house in Ataun at the end of the XIX century. This piano was brought from Ordizia on a fair day. This daughter entered afterwards in a convent, taught Music in some other convents and was finally organist at St. Bernard de Anglet.


At the scholl

José Miguel's mother took charge of her son's religious education. He learned to read and write at the school of the village. The texts were in Spanish and children did not know this language. The practice of the ring was severely carried out. This practice consisted of passing a ring to the child who spoke in Euskera, and the child who had the ring at the end of the day was punished. Children tried to accuse their schoolmates in order to pass them the ring and therefore escape the punishment.

All this contributed to José Miguel's dislike of the village school. Nevertheless, he clearly improved his knowledge. He attended this school until the age of 14, when he decided to become a priest. That is the reason why he entered into the Tutorship of Baliarrain, being clearly aware of the economic sacrifice that this decision meant for his parents. The first day, the tutor told the students that they had to get up at six o'clock in the morning the next day. José Miguel was awake at that time and heard the church bells ringing at six a.m. He couldn't hear a single noise, not in the hall, not in the other rooms and so he thought that he should warn his mates. He translated in his head what he wanted to say: "Jaunak = Gentlemen, Seiek = six, Jo due = has struck".

He got to the hall and shouted: "Gentlemen, six has struck". For days, many of his classmates repeated during the break: "six o'clock has struck".

It was very hard for him to move to that school. On one hand he missed his home and on the other hand his knowledge of the Spanish language was insufficient. When the first trimester was over, he was given the bill for his board and felt remorse for the effort his parents were making and, from his point of view, the small improvements he had made. At home for Christmas holidays, he told his mother that he did not wish to go back to the Tutorship. She understood him, but at the same time, knew that he was doing well in his studies and that he would probably be the only student in the group capable of getting through two years in one. As his father realised that his son's main worry was the expense he was causing the family, he told him: "If you want to become a priest, go ahead. In this world, if you want something, you have to make an effort".

When the academic year was over, the exams were held at the Seminary of Vitoria. The President of the board of examiners, Rector of the Seminary, said in Euskera when he saw the boy:

: "Ataungo frutua"

"Ez ola oittua" answered the boy in verse, overcoming his shyness. ("Fruit of Ataun". "Not used to such affairs").

When the exam had finished, the president said to him: "You know more Latin than Spanish, but it is also important to learn Spanish".

The boy thought that he was going to fail the exam. He waited impatiently for the mark and his happiness was immense when he was told that he had got through two terms in one.

José Miguel still used to say in 1989 that he remembered that day as one of the happiest moments of his life. He returned to Ataun, with other students, shooting rockets from the train. He shot the last one just before arriving to his country house.

When his mother saw him so happy, she thought that she could also be proud of her son's success and took him to the country house front door, where the family had two apple trees with their branches bent beneath the weight of the apples and said to her son:

"Those apple trees teach us a great lesson. The more they give, the more humble they are".

In autumn, he returned to Baliarrain happily to study his third year of Latin, but those second Christmas holidays as seminarist were the saddest of his life. At the beginning of those holidays, his mother died. José Miguel remembered vividly the immense grief caused by his mother's death.

At Vitoria's seminary

In autumn of next year he went to the Seminary of Vitoria, located close to the Old Cathedral, where he studied Philosophy and Theology. He was interested in all the subjects and he devoted himself to them all intensively. At the same time and by himself, he studied Teaching.

He was particularly interested in Physics and Geology. He spent the summers, together with another student of Forestry Engineering, making excursions through the mountains of Ataun observing their geologic nature.

There was a slack period in his life until the middle of his theological studies. Studying Sociology and Sciences by himself, brought doubts to his faith, which had been sure until then. That was the main reason why he devoted himself afterwards to study the History of Religion. Once his personal problem had been solved, he did not want to become just an expert in the History of Religion.

He decided to do research by himself, considering that it was logical to begin by studying his own People, where he saw that elements from older religions, that he had learned from childhood, survived christianised. At this moment his later devotion to the investigation of the Archaeology and Ethnography of the Basque Country began.

Not satisfied by the internal peace obtained from his studies, which came in fact from catholic beliefs, he decided to contrast his ideas with those of others who had different beliefs. Therefore, he spent his summer holidays in 1913, a year before finishing his studies, at the University of Leipzig, following a course on the Psychology of the Peoples, taught by Prof. Wundt.

At the beginning of the new term in Vitoria, the last year of his studies, he was given the task of teaching History of Religion, but as a result of a sudden change in the course of study together with the absence of the official professor of Physics, he is also given the responsibility of teaching this subject provisionally, although this lasted until 1936, when the Spanish civil war put an end to his teaching at the Seminary of Vitoria.

He is ordained priest at the end of 1914 and sent to Burgos to graduate in Theology.

The following year, his father died.

At the beginning of the First World War, Barandiarán, who had made a wireless set, listened and talked about the news concerning the war before it appeared in the local press. This caused him problems like inspections by the regional authorities, who thought he was spying. After several inspections, the authority in charge of the matter was convinced that he only had a home-made receiver, which anybody could make.

1916: Aranzadi - Barandiaran - Eguren Team

It was during the summer of 1916 when Barandiarán made progress with his investigations definitively. Together with a neighbour from S. Gregorio, he climbed the rock of Jentilbaratza, where he discovered a medieval castle mentioned in Ataun by Jiménez de Rada. This castle was believed to be situated, according to Gorosabel, in the urban part of S. Gregorio.

The exploration of Jentilbaratza led to more important findings for the future investigations of José Miguel. The man who went with him to Jentilbaratza and saw him digging there, talked to him about the "Jentiles" and told him that he already knew where the last members of this race were buried and that if he wished so, he would take him to that place, located in Aralar. José Miguel was very interested and they decided to meet the next day and go to the place mentioned.

The day of the meeting, the assistant of the previous day did not appear and José Miguel went by himself to the Sierra. After a long walk, he sat on a big stone slab in a place called Argarbi. Under his feet, there was a mole hole where he discovered a fragment of a human jaw. He got up and looking round, saw a boy and asked him whether he knew anything about the "Jentiles". The boy told him the legend that explains the destruction of this race when the Kismi arrived. This legend tells of the introduction of Christianity in the Country and the disappearance of the Jentils under the stone slab called Jentillarri.

José Miguel found 9 tombstones near that place and sent a note about his finding to the magazine "Euskalerriaren alde" of San Sebastián. When he saw this publication, PM. De Soraluce, Director of the Ethnographic Museum of San Sebastián, wrote to the young Barandiarán and told him that those tombstones were prehistoric dolmens, unknown as such until that date. He added that precisely during that time, Prof. T. De Aranzadi, native of Bergara and Professor at the University of Barcelona, was excavating similar monuments in the Navarrese Aralar and that he should get in touch with him.

José Miguel wrote to Prof. Aranzadi, who answered him suggesting the excavation of those monuments and mentioning that he should get in touch with Prof. E. De Eguren, native of Vitoria and Professor of Geology at the University of Oviedo, who could join them in research.

That Christmas, José Miguel got in touch with Eguren and they planned to explore the zone at the beginning of the following summer (1917). That year, in summer, José Miguel and D.T. de Aranzadi met each other and carried out, together with Eguren, the first group of excavations and research in the dolmens of the Aralar in Guipúzcoa.

The prehistoric research team Aranzadi-Barandiarán-Eguren, which carried out so much exploration, excavations and research during the next 20 years, until they separated because of the 1936 War, was formed thus.

José Miguel used to say that that first research was a decisive stage in his life. He always recalled very vividly their first excursion to the tombs as filled with emotion; they were entering an unexplored world, from which they only knew some mysterious legends, about just as mysterious men.

At the beginning of the 1917-1918 term, José Miguel delivered the inaugural speech, using as his subject the Basque Prehistory. Father Breuil, head pontiff of the world Prehistory at that time and who had been in the caves of Aitzbitarte in Landabarso, heard about that speech thanks to Soraluce. Breuil wrote to Barandiarán telling him about these caves and breaking new ground in the international scientific forum. A few years later, in 1923 and

We could say that in 1916, the year in which the Aranzadi-Barandiarán-Eguren team takes shape, the research concerning the Basque Prehistory reaches a new stage. The work carried out before that date had been the work of amateurs. With this team, this research reached a scientific level.

The result of this improvement, was the systematic excavations carried out in caves and megalithic monuments throughout the whole Country:


Biscay: Santimami–e, Lumentxa, Venta Laperra, Bolinkoba, Atxurra, Silibranca

Guipúzcoa: Urtiaga, Ermittia, Jentilletxeta

Alava: Artificial caves of Trevi–o


Guipúzcoa: Aralar, Elosua-Plazentzia, AtaunBurunda, Altzania, Urbia, Belabieta, Kalamua

Navarre: Auritz, Aurizperri, Gomti, Aralar, Urbasa.

Alava: Entzia.

After the summer excavations, the task of studying the materials found began, in order to put together the publication of the results obtained. That obliged a visit to the European museums in order to compare their own findings with others from different places. Therefore, Barandiarán visited different museums in France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria... sometimes by himself and sometimes with Aranzadi.

At the same time that the prehistoric research was being carried out, José Miguel continued with the ethnographic research. The origin of his scientific studies had not been for nothing and neither had Aranzadi's line of research.

In this field, it was a great encouragement for Barandiarán to receive a letter from W. Schmidt, founder of the international magazine on Ethnology and Linguistic "Anthropos" and soul of the Vienna Cultural School. This letter was written as a result of a work published by José Miguel in 1919 about magic. W. Schmidt asked him to become correspondent for the magazine, using some questionnaires that he would send him from Vienna.

The result of this research, were three important steps taken by José Miguel in 1921:

    • On one hand, he creates the "Sociedad de Eusko Folklore", with its head office in the Seminary of Vitoria. Through this association, he tries to create a "corpus" about the Basque traditional life, with scientific rigour and avoiding the romantic element contained in many previous descriptions of this life.
    • He starts the magazine "Anuario de Eusko Folklore" which, except for a period of interruption caused by the war is still published today. The magazine published the works which were created.
    • He also sets up the publication "Eusko Folklore. Materiales y Cuestionarios", which covers basically the legends, traditions, beliefs, customs, religious and magic practices etc... of the Basque Country.

But suddenly, in 1924, serious difficulties to this task appeared. The difficulties had two main causes. In the first place, the studies about the Basque Country were considered as separatist policy and on the other hand, the research carried out by Barandiarán was considered as part of the "profane" Sciences. Therefore, his ecclesiastic superiors forbade him to attend the meetings of the Board of the "Sociedad de Estudios Vascos", of whom he was a member. The Rector of the Seminary himself said that the Handbooks of Eusko Folklore were "a tomfoolery". When the Diocesan Museum was about to be inaugurated in the Seminary, the Rector did not want to include as part of the collection a series of prehistoric materials belonging to José Miguel, as they were "pure nonsense".

As a result of these events, the head office of the Sociedad de Eusko Folkore had to leave the Seminary in 1925. Its new site was the School of Arts and Crafts of Vitoria where, at the same time and that same year, the Centre for Prehistoric Research of the "Sociedad de Estudios Vascos" began to function, José Miguel being its president.

As opposed to the incomprehension of his ecclesiastic superiors and certain political sectors, the research led and carried out by José Miguel obtained a growing prestige in the European Centres of ethnographic research. As a result, Barandiarán was appointed regional Patron of the Museum for the Spanish People in Madrid in 1930 and in 1934, in London, he was appointed member of the Permanent Council for the International Congresses of Anthropology and Ethnology.

Another source of criticism came from the anticlerical media, like the newspaper "El Sol" from Madrid, which criticised the works of Barandiarán and considered them to be neither objective nor reliable, as they came from a man dressed in a soutane.

However, he had the approval of a person much less suspect on the matter, Pío Baroja, who wrote a letter to Barandiarán, asking him to accept his nephew Julio Caro Baroja among the group of excavators that was going to work in the caves of Carranza. Caro Baroja says about that stay in Carranza: "While I had to bear pains in the neck and lack of enthusiasm and other similar abominations at University, Barandiarán gave us very clear and accurate ideas on the historical and cultural method, on the very recent research carried out by Malinowski, on the idea of God among the primitives, on Durkheim or Wundt's thinkin... and so, in a paleolithic cave and from the lips of a Basque catholic priest, there came more knowledge than from Madrid lecture rooms".

Meanwhile the work of the Aranzadi-Barandiarán-Eguren team continued, but not without some anecdotes worth mentioning. One day, when they came back from an excavation in Bedarona (Biscay), they ran into a beggar who was leaving the village and this woman, when she saw them, said: "In Bedarona, there is little nobility", insinuating that in that village they were not going to obtain alms.

One of the names the three members of the team were known by was "the three sad cavemen" and José Miguel used to say in this respect that it was appropriate to call them cavemen as they spent most of their lives in caves but that is was absolute false that they were sad people.

During these years, life in the Seminary suffered serious change. In 1930, the new building was opened and the teaching staff renewed. These new teachers introduced an academic life more adequate to the new times.

The following year, the Republic was founded and after that the anticlericalism, latent until that moment, became evident. As a result of the burning of convents in different parts of Spain, the rumour spread that the Seminary was going to be attacked.

Both parties clearly showed their animosity towards the Seminary. The right wingers were against it too, as they considered it a source of nationalism. Barandiarán works attracted constant criticism, as did the Cardaveraz Academy for the study and spread of Euskera and run by Mr. Manuel Lecuona.

1936: The exile

We arrive in this way to 1936. In July, Aranzadi and Barandiarán were carrying out the ninth group of excavations in Urtiaga (Itziar). On the 18th they knew about General Franco's insurrection. They thought that in a few days the rebellion would be over, and therefore they went on with their excavations till the 24th, although the atmosphere of tension was growing and the movement of people trying to escape was increasing. Some people sheltered in the same pension where José Miguel was staying.

On the 25th of July, at daybreak, a group of militiamen came to the pension and surrounded it. The leader came into José Miguel's room and asked to see his documents and what his political ideas were. José Miguel answered that if he had asked him why he believed in God or why he was a priest, he could have answered, as he had thought a lot about that, but politics was something he hadn't thought much about. Therefore, if he answered his question, his reply would be that of a fool, as only foolish people talk about what they do not know.

The leader of the group told him: "If all the Spanish people shared your point of view, this war would make no sense".

Seeing that the situation was more worrying each day, Aranzadi and Barandiarán decided to go to Bilbao, the former to join his family in Barcelona afterwards and José Miguel to continue his work in Biscay.

When they arrived to the railway station of Atxun, three militiamen were searching the travellers' suitcases. They asked José Miguel what he was carrying in his and he answered that he was carrying a skull. In fact, during the excavation in Urtiaga, they had discovered the famous BI skull. The militiamen looked at him in astonishment and walked nervously around his suitcase. José Miguel opened it and when he showed them the skull, one of them said : "close it!" and that was all.

Barandiarán and Aranzadi said good-bye to each other in Bilbao. Eguren, sick at the time, had not joined them on that excavation. At that moment, the work carried out by the team during 20 years came to an end. They never saw each other again. Eguren died in 1942 and Aranzadi in 1945. José Miguel knew about their deaths while he was in exile.

After exploring near Lekeitio, Barandiarán moved to the Minor Seminary of Saturraran, where 40 seminarists from Alava, who were attending a summer course, had been cut off by the war and could not return to their homes. The presence of José Miguel there was a great relief to everybody; the teachers as well as the seminarists were frightened.

Meanwhile, the troops of Franco advanced in Guipuzcoa and José Miguel thought about a way to send the seminarits back to their homes. After several visits, among them a visit to Mr. Manuel de Irujo, Minister of the War, the seminarists returned home through Mondragon.

Once this done, José Miguel obtained another permit for 18 people, who were going to take a boat to S. Juan de Luz.

They sailed one night from Motrico's port, together with other fugitives. Barandiarán describes this trip in his diary: "At nine in the evening we go to Motrico's port... The password is "Itziar"... A lot of people crowd at the port. It is swarming and a good example of lack of organisation. A boat takes people to the steamships with great difficulty and, due to the low tide, they wait for us at a good distance from the dock. We are about 45 fugitives. Four or five "mendigoizales" carrying shot guns go aboard with us in case we need protection.

We start our exile at five to eleven. Stars follow our route in silence. We leave behind us the lights that show we are leaving Motrico. Afterwards, we distinguish similar groups from Ondarroa, Deva, Itziar, ... We go to the open sea and then turn right towards S. Juan de Luz.

We do not have lights to avoid being seen. Irigoyen lights a tinder lighter to light a cigarette and everybody on the boat protests.

We arrive to Socoa at five in the morning. It is a sad trip: many young men from Motrico come with us, they are escaping from the war and they don't know what they will do, where they will live or where they have to go once in S. Juan de Luz. Next to me there is a woman who cries bitterly from time to time. They all lament their misfortune".

José Miguel and other teachers who crossed with him to S. Juan de Luz, planned to cross from there to Vitoria for the new term, but when they tried to obtain their passports, they were not allowed to come back. Moreover, José Miguel was told that he could not go back to the Seminary. He thought that maybe he was to blame because of the subject of his research, as he had never participated in politics.

Mr. Mateo Múgica, his bishop, had been exiled too.

ONevertheless, from the Seminary of Vitoria, they asked him to go to the Seminary of Bayonne and help there the seminarists from Vitoria sheltered there.

José Miguel always believed that, thanks to this, he would be called to the Seminary of Vitoria sooner or later. Waiting this call, he declined important invitations from several Universities. We should add that one of these invitations was a chair at the Columbia University of New York and he received the offer in October 1939, once the World War had begun and at a time when the Basques exiled in France foretold difficult days.

At the beginning of 1937, he started the prehistoric and ethnographic research in the Continental Basque Country and in 1938, he started anew the works of the Laboratory of Ethnology and Eusko Folklore, thanks to the grant given by the Museums of France. Taking into account the expression that every cloud has a silver lining, those years of exile gave him the chance to know and investigate that part of the Basque Country, which he hadn't been familiar with.

He lived first in Biarritz, with his niece who had to leave him less than a year after and go back to Ataun to take care of her sick mother. Then, his niece Pilar, the daughter of his eldest brother went to live with him. Pilar stayed with him all the time he was in exile and afterwards, faithfully and attentively, until the day he died.

In 1941, they move to Sara, where they spent the last 13 years of exile. Here, in the house of Bidartea, Barandiarán continued his prehistoric and ethnographic research. Among this last research, we should mention in particular the ethnographic study of this locality, which was published later in the "Anuario de Eusko-Folklore".

During these years, he was also entrusted by the French Ministry of Education, as a member of the Commission for Historic Monuments, with the inventory of the Lower Pyrenees Megalithic Monuments.

At the same time, the University of Frankfurt asked him to collaborate with the magazine they published there. These works obliged him to visit the Pyrenean zone constantly and in order to allow him to walk about the region freely, the German authorities issued him an official document. To carry out his work, he needed the files he had at the Seminary of Vitoria and therefore he sent his niece Pilar to this city for them, but she came back distressed saying that when she was coming with the files, the Spanish authorities had confiscated them on the frontier saying that the files contained dangerous documents. José Miguel reported the event to the German authorities and they brought him the files the next day.

Although the world war was over, the consequences of the Spanish civil war continued and it was at that time that Mr. Mateo Múgica, the bishop exiled from Vitoria, wrote his famous document "Imperatives of my conscience", in whose creation José Miguel played a major role. This document contains a discordant note as opposed to the approval with which the Spanish Episcopacy had received the rebellion of Franco's troops.

In the field of research, Barandiarán set up in 1916 "Ikuska, Instituto Vasco de Investigación", which is in fact the continuation of the "Sociedad de Eusko Folklore" founded in Vitoria in 1921. Ikuska's main objective is to promote the study of the population of the Atlantic Pyrenees and to investigate the traditional ways of life. Its goal is also to study the traces of the prehistoric man and his culture in the Pyrenean regions. Among the collective members of Ikuska, we should mention institutions from Bayonne, Bordeaux, Paris, Toulouse, Stockholm, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Berkeley, etc. The magazine Ikuska began to be published too and between 1946 and 1951, date in which it disappeared, important works were published in it.


During these years, José Miguel took part intensively in international Congresses and Conferences. Between 1946 and 1951, he went to London, Oxford, three times to Paris, twice to Brussels,.....

On the other hand, in 1917, another magazine called Eusko-Jakintza was created, which tried to fill the gap left by the RIEV ("Revista Internacional de los Estudios Vascos") and it was published from 1907 to 1936. José Miguel was the director of this magazine.

Around this time, the most important efforts to get José Miguel back to his home town began. Many efforts had been made before but a record at the Security General Direction in Madrid calling him philo-Jew and philo-mason gave him little confidence to go back.

In these years, however, several steps taken by the "Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi" from San Sebastian and by the "Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País" were more fruitful. The most decisive factor in these steps was Prof. A. Tovar, Rector at the University of Salamanca, who, having created the Chair "Larramendi" for Basque Studies at this University, wanted José Miguel to be the first Professor invited. On the other hand, the guaranties of security offered to him seemed to be solid.

1953: Return to Ataun

Finally, in October 1953, after 17 years in exile, he returned to his home town. A few days after, he opened the Chair mentioned in Salamanca, with a series of 10 conferences.

Meanwhile, his niece Pilar had built, using as a model the Bidartea house in Sara, the house where José Miguel lived till the day he died. She continues to live there. They called it Sara.

After his arrival, Barandiarán soon began a series of pilgrimages to the Sanctuary of Aranzazu, where he used to go with his nephews every year. During this first pilgrimage, going up from Katabera, crossing Urbia and while his nephews rested a while, he went ahead alone to the dolmen of Artzanburu and found it as they had left it after the excavation 35 years before. How could he not remember his friends and colleagues Aranzadi and Eguren. He prayed for them there, on that prehistoric tomb.

A year after his return, he started his archaeological excavations again in the cave of Urtiaga, under the patronage of the "Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi", right in the same place where he had left them 18 years before.

In 1956, he started those of the important settlement of Lezetxiki in Mondragon and in 1960, those of Aitzbitarte IV in Renteria. These settlements became at the same time schools of fieldwork, where the young prehistorians, who were finishing then their University studies (J. Altuna, J.M. Apellaniz, I. Barandiarán.....) learnt fieldwork techniques under the leadership of José Miguel.

This had a multifold effect. These young students started excavations by themselves and as they become professors, they had their own disciples and this guarantees and greatly increases the prehistoric research in the Basque Country.

The result of this research is, among others, the important findings of the rupestrian art sanctuaries of Altxerri (Aia) and Ekain (Deba), whose first studies were directed by José Miguel, with his disciples' help.

During this last stage of his life, until 1975, José Miguel carried out another group of excavation campaigns apart from those already mentioned of Urtiaga, Lezetxiki and Aitzbitarte not only in Guipuzcoa but also in Alava and Biscay.

On the other hand, he undertook the ethnographic research in the "Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi" and started the publishing of the "Anuario de Eusko Folklore", again published by this Society until 1981, date on which, according to José Miguel's will, it became part of the recently reappeared "Sociedad de Estudios Vascos", where the "Anuario" was created and published in its first stage.

At the same time, the magazine Munibe of the "Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi" restarted the publishing of the "Hojas de Eusko Folklore. Materiales y Cuestionarios". The project, that José Miguel had in mind for a long time soon appeared, to put together an ethnographic Atlas of the Basque Country. The objective was to surpass the stage of isolated research and determine, after the elaboration of monographs in all the regions of the Country by following the same methods, the territorial areas of the different cultural expressions and thus to deepen the Basque cultural world more. At the same time, it was necessary to study the cultural transition which was going on in the Country. To carry on with this project, the invitation that José Miguel received in 1964 from the University of Navarre, asking him to take charge of a chair of Basque Ethnology at this University, was a great help. José Miguel accepted the invitation and thanks to this Chair, created the Etniker Group of Navarre, whose task was to carry out fieldwork research, following the methods established by Barandiarán in a new questionnaire.

Subsequently, these Etniker Groups have spread to Guipuzcoa, Biscay and Alava and their task, increased as it happened with the archaeological research, covers nowadays many places in our Country and that ambitious project of the Ethnographic Atlas is now taking shape.

All these works were rewarded at an academic level by three Doctorates "Honoris causa", granted to José Miguel by the Universities of the Basque Country (1978), Deusto (1986) and Complutense of Madrid (1987).

This is the life of José Miguel de Barandiarán. He went on working until the day he died. At the end of 1989, he published his work "Myths of the Basque Country" and having reached the age of 100 years, he was still working, correcting for printing, a series of ethnographic research carried out some years before in the small Navarrese village of Ezkurra.

José Miguel de Barandiarán died on the 21st of December 1991, 10 days before reaching the age of 102 years old.

A brief curriculum: from 1889 to 1955

Mr. José Miguel de Barandiarán Ayerbe was born in Ataun (Gipuzkoa), on the 31st of December 1889.

He studied humanities in the Tutorship of Baliarrain (Guipúzcoa) and philosophy and Theology at the Councillor Seminary of Vitoria.

In the summer of 1913, he attended the courses given by Prof. Wundt, author of the great work VOLKERPSYCHOLOGIE, at the University of Leipzig. The guidance of Professor Wundt had a clear reflect on his later anthropologic and ethnographic research.

He was ordained priest in December 1914 and graduated in Theology at the Ecclesiastic University of Burgos in 1915.

In 1916, he published his first work entitled "Ataun in the Middle Ages" in the magazine EUSKALERRIAREN ALDE, printed in San Sebastián.

Working as a teacher at the Seminary of Vitoria, he delivered the inaugural speech of the 1917-18 term, using as his subject the Basque Prehistory. As a result of the publication of this speech, Barandiarán got in touch with the famous French expert in prehistory Henri Breuil, who put him in touch with the German expert in prehistory Hugo Obermaier.

In that same year of 1917, Barandiarán had got in touch for the first time with his later master, Dr. Aranzadi, at that time Professor at the University of Barcelona. Together with Dr. Eguren, Professor in Oviedo, they formed the archaeological team who worked together during the next 20 years, until 1936.

In 1922, Barandiarán and Dr. Aranzadi travelled to Europe, visiting museums and institutions in Paris, Cologne, Mainz, Munich, Leipzig, Berlin, Holland, Aachen and Tilburg.

In this Dutch city, he delivered the speech "La Religion des Anciens Basques" at the International Congress of Religious Ethnology.

In 1926, he is appointed Rector of the Seminary of Aguirre and Vice-rector of the Councillor Seminary. According to his friend and collaborator Mr. Manuel de Lekuona, Barandiarán was the leader of a complete scientific reform concerning the studies at the Seminary of Vitoria as well as the driving force of a wider reform concerning Basque studies in general, promoting the anthropological and natural sciences.

In 1929, he travels again and for the second time with Dr. Aranzadi, visiting anthropological institutes and societies in Barcelona, Lyon, Geneva, Bern, Zurich, Vienna, Innsbruck, Lucerne, Interlaken and Bordeaux.

Between 1917 and 1936, the team formed by Barandiarán and the Doctors Aranzadi and Eguren carries out a series of archaeological excavations throughout the Basque Country: dolmens of the Aralar (1917), Aizgorri (1918), Ataun-Burunda (1919), Altzania (1920), Encia and Elosua Placencia (1921), Belabieta and Urbasa and the artificial caves of Santimamiñe (1924,1925 and 1931), Lumentxa in 1925, caves of Ermittia as well as others in Guipúzcoa (1924 and 1927), Bolinkoba (1933), Urtiaga-itziar (1936).


In 1931, he publishes his work A brief History of the Primitive Man among the works he had been publishing in the Anuario de Eusko Folklore.

In 1934, he publishes in the Basque and Spanish version, his synthesis work: The Primitive Man of the Basque Country.

At the London´s conference in 1935, he is appointed member of the standing board of the International Congress of Anthropology and Ethnography.

In 1939, he takes part in the International Congress of Anthropology in Copenhagen with his speech on The Basques Ancient Religions.

As a result of the civil war, he travels to the Lower Pyrenees and lives there from 1936 to 1953, moving to the town of Sara in 1942.

In 1946, he creates the "Institut Basque de Recherches", called Ikuska and starts the publication of a Journal with the same name, relating to the research carried out.

In 1947, he is appointed chairman of the Sociedad Internacional de Estudios Vascos, in whose publication Eusko Jakintza, take part the most famous European experts in the field of Basque Studies.

From 1946 to 1950, José Miguel took part intensively in international congresses : London and Oxford (1946). Paris, Congress on Archaeocivilization (July 1947), Musée de l´homme (September 1947), Paris (1948), Brussels (1948), Brussels (1949).

In 1953, he returned to the Basque Country and gave a conference on the Present Situation of the Basque Studies at the University of Salamanca at the request of its Rector, professor Tovar.

A brief curriculum: from 1956 to 1991

In 1956, he started the publishing of the "Anuario de Eusko Folklore" (Handbook of Eusko Folklore) again from volume XV, under the patronage of the "Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi" and started his archaeological research again by creating new teams of young researchers. We should mention the excavations in Leizetxiki, Aitzbitarte, Kurtzia, Atxeta, Urtiaga, Axlor, Ekain, among others.

From 1965 until 1977, Barandiarán holds the chair of Basque Ethnology created at the University of Navarre. He prepares the Etniker plan, creating groups of researchers and collaborators in all the Basque regions, whose task was to carry out a systematic plan of ethnographic research with the aim of putting together an Ethnographic Atlas of the Basque Country.

In 1972, the great Basque encyclopaedia of Bilbao begins to publish his complete works, which covered 22 volumes.

In 1973, he creates the Biscay´s Etniker group of ethnographic research, whose head office is the Labayru Euskal Library of Derio.

In 1976, together with Mr. Manuel Lekuona, Drs. Irigay and Garate, Mr. Manuel de Irujo and Mr. Agustín Zumalabe, members of the last standing board of the "Sociedad de Estudios Vascos" (Association of Basque Studies), Barandiarán starts up this Association again. At the general meeting in Oñate, in September 1976, he is unanimously appointed chairman of Eusko Ikaskuntza.

In April 1978, the Basque Country´s University grants him the Doctorate "Honoris Causa". In 1981, the University of Theology of Vitoria also grants him the Doctorate "Honoris Causa.

In 1983, the Diputación Foral of Guipúzcoa appoints him favourite son of the province.

In October 1986, the University of Deusto grants him the Doctorate "Honoris Causa".


On the 28th of January 1987, in a solemn ceremony taken place in the assembly hall of the University Complutense of Madrid and in the presence of the whole teaching staff, he is granted the doctorate "Honoris Causa".

In December 1987, Eusko Jaurlaritza (the Basque Government) grants him the Gernika´s tree cross.

José Miguel de Barandiarán died in Ataun, on the 21st of December 1991, at the age of 101 years old.

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