Ethnographic Atlas of the Basque Country

Esta página es una versión traducida de la página Atlas etnografico de vasconia. La traducción está completa al 100 %.

Otros idiomas:
Inglés • ‎Español • ‎Euskera • ‎Francés

The Ethnographic Atlas of the Basque Country is an ethnographic research project under the aegis of José Miguel de Barandiaran, which sought to study the traditional culture of the Basque people and its evolution.

In 1962, the need to prepare a Basque cultural atlas was raised. The post-war period had slowed down the social changes that were being ushered in during the 1930s, but the early 1960s saw a general transformation in all orders of life.

In 1965, the International Conference on European Ethnology held in Stockholm, given the changes that were happening throughout Europe, called for ethnographic atlases to be produced by means of field surveys to collect the cultural characteristics of the human groups and traditional societies.

In 1968, Barandiaran gave a paper entitled Bosquejo de un atlas etnográfico del pueblo vasco (Snapshot of an Ethnographic Atlas of the Basque People) at a congress held in Zaragoza.

During the XII General Meeting of the Etniker Groups held in Ataun (Gipuzkoa) in 1987, the proposal was made to produce the Ethnographic Atlas based on the experience built up over decades of ethnographic publications and three prior research lines conducted as a team. Therefore, an Interregional Steering Committee comprising the heads of each territorial group was set up and would be in charge of organising the research and drafting. Furthermore, the different territorial groups were confederated in a higher entity structure known as Etniker Euskalerria Groups.

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Research Process

The Steering Committee establishes what the research campaign is going to be for the following year or years and delivers the survey to be followed to all members. The heads of each regional group plan the research in locations in the different supramunicipal districts of the territory. Meetings are periodically held where the difficulties emerging during the research are solved.

Each volume of the Atlas requires the research to be carried out in an average of 70 locations and the questionnaire put to 450-500 people.

Each member conducts the research in their area and prepares a field report. The heads of each territorial group assess the results obtained.

The information gathered not only refers to the event in the past, but also to the current situation and to the changes undergone.

Drafting and publishing process

A Technical Secretariat with its own staff and resource was needed to prepare the different volumes of the Atlas. It has been located in the Labayru Fundazioa’s Ethnographic Department in Derio (Bizkaia) from the very start. It has the premises for the drafting work, with a large library on Basque themes and another specialised in ethnography. Since 1988, the editorial team has been working there in contact with the territorial heads and the different researchers. They also receive the ethnographic reports on all the surveyed locations, along with the supporting graphic material.

Given that the research and data gathering process occurs more quickly than the production of each volume, both processes are separate in time. That has meant that nearly all the major sections of the Etniker questionnaire have been practically completed so that all those materials are pending preparation. Apart from the explanations above, there is another of greater importance that justifies advancing the field research: as great importance is given to the knowledge of the elderly people surveyed, any delay could mean a significant loss of information.

Once work begins on a volume of the Atlas, those materials are first classified and organised. The whole bibliography related to the volume being prepared is in turn compiled. The publications prior to the research campaign and which follow a similar methodology play a key role as the ethnographic compilation under the aegis of Barandiaran dating back to the start of the 20th century with the publication of the Anuario de Eusko Folklore in 1921 has to be taken into account.

The drafting process is laborious given the extent of each volume and the great number of memories handled. A selection of the graphic material, both provided by the interviewers and from the bibliography, was prepared for the volume to be published.

Eight volumes have been published:

  • Household Food. 1990
  • Children’s Games. 1993
  • Funeral Rites. 1995
  • From Birth to Marriage Rites. 1998
  • Livestocking and Shepherding. 2000
  • Folk Medicine. 2004
  • House and Family. 2011
  • Agriculture. 2017