Saturday, January 7, 2012

Rioja Alavesa : Basque Country (Spain)

The area named "Rioja Alavesa" possesses clear limits : in the North, the Sierra de Toloño cuts the area from the rest of Álava and the Ebro river divides it from Rioja. Nevertheless, rivers never were borders and the whole basin of the Ebro river in this very vicinity shares a common ethno-cultural past which might date back from Neolithic times and was consolidated by Roman rule. In that respect, the Basque language was probably wiped out very early in History, Basque placenames are sparse if not non-existent, ...

  • Sample :

Full scale

  • Brief anthropological analysis :

- Type 1 : Dark, leptomorphic, long and triangular head, long and straight nose, close-set eyes, full eyebrows, pointy chin and large jaw
~ (Dinaromorphic) Atlanto-Mediterranean

Unsurprisingly enough, not that many people approach "ideal" Basque types as one can define them stereotypically wise (see previous samples in proper Basque-speaking lands) though now and then, some individuals are not that dissimilar. Eventually, in my opinion, the Ebro valley clearly is transitional towards "Castillian" types even though parts of Rioja may look more "Basque" than Rioja Alavesa as far as my samples are concerned. I stick to the model that the Ebro was a highway in ancient times through which new ways of life and people communicated and which may have cut ancient Vasconian lands from each other.

Let's notice a somehow interesting sexual dimorphism already found in Rioja with women being more impressive than their male counterparts (more elongated on average which reflects pretty much on the morphotype).

- Type 2 : Intermediate complexion, brachymorphic, large face, square-box head head, little and straight nose, rather distanced eyes, little eyelids, large jaw
~ Alpinoid

These types clearly show affinities with Alpinoid types already identified in previously sampled areas in the Ebro valley such as Rioja or Tarazona in Aragon. No Basque affinity whatsoever as far as I am concerned.

  • Final morphotypes :


  1. Grosso modo quite in agreement. There are some dinaromorphic longfaced people (not sure if I agree with the AM classification and I'd rather use 'Pyrenaic' or just 'Atlantic' instead but, well, it's a matter of terminology) which look more vaguely Iberian than truly Basque and some broadfaced people (pseudo-Alpinoid, often not brachicephalic when seen in profile) who are quite inside Basque common typology. But grosso modo you are quite right.

  2. ... "the Sierra de Toloño"...

    It is most commonly known as Sierra de Cantabria, possibly related to the Visigothic marche "Duchy of Cantabria", which many believe was by the Ebro and not in modern or historical Cantabria (at the best would be related to early Castile maybe). Toloño, a clear Basque toponym by the way ('toles oina/-o' = 'crooked foot', where 'foot=oina/-o' is used often for hills and mountains in Basque toponimy: Garoña, Begoña, Oña, Ogoño, etc.), is a mountain rather than the sierra.

    "the Basque language was probably wiped out very early in History, Basque placenames are sparse if not non-existent, ..."

    It is true that the district keeps little Basque toponimy but that is also partly because Spanish has been favored in the last centuries when two names existed for the same place: so you will more likely find Laguardia than Biasteri, even if the latter is probably more genuine.

    Not sure about nearby Samaniego but it seems to relate with Basque suffixes -aga or -(e)ko rather than anything romance I can imagine, suffix that also appears in Lantziego more related to lan (work) that to Spanish ciego (blind) and surely the same name (roughly) as famous Souletine Lantz village. Bastida (aka Labastida) is of clear Gascon-Basque origin and is a term not found elsewhere in the Spanish or Iberian Romance areas. Oion is not romance either,Leza is the same name Leitza ("the cave", modern standard: leize) in the Navarrese-Gipuzkoan border. Etc.

    I'd be very perplex if Basque language would have been lost in Arabako Errioxa (aka Rioja Alavesa) much earlier than in Ojacastro (near Ezkaray, another clear Basque toponym and not the only one in Rioja Alta at all), where in the 13th century Basque was still spoken and defended before the tribunalsbefore the Castilian linguistic repression.

    So I guess that it should be c. 1300, not before when Basque was lost in that area at the earliest. More or less the same as in parts of Aragon near Huesca.

  3. PS- And now that I think of it, Logroño itself must be an at least partly Basque toponym, related to Toloño, Ogoño, etc. I did not know it had a hill but that must be the meaning of the name: hill of "Logr-", whatever "Logr-" was initially (even if it's romance, i.e. 'lugar', 'logro', 'lagar', 'el ogro'... the suffix -oño is not for sure).

  4. Lloegr is Welsh for "the LOST country" being England, or it could have been a lost Welshman; after all, Temora [Tara] gets a mention in Basque folklore, & many a Journeyman travelled Europe to finish learning his trade.

  5. Thank you, I like your site and information. Embracing diversity is my goal, and I'm interested because of the recent discovery of Irish/Basque/Celtic origin.


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