Basque ethnography at a glance

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Rolling the ball in at match at the Concha skittle alley. Author: Miguel Sabino Díaz.

Pasabolo tablón or skittles is one of the traditional versions of the sport of bowling that is still played in the Carranza Valley.

The pins, previously known as “skittles”, are one of its main elements.

In general, the pins measure 35 cm long and 3.30 cm thick, with a slightly rounded base and tip.

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150-cm grinding millstone abandoned at 760 m. Iguzkimendi (Baztan). Author: Javi Castro.

The title of this article is a metaphor to try and explain what I have been working on for over 10 years of researching millstone quarries, the grindstone quarries (Errotarri proiektua).

Naturally, it would never have occurred to me to physically mix together Einstein the scientist (1879-1955) and the other scholar from Ataun (1889-1991), but just their precious research and some of their shared reasoning. They provide the foundations for my research based on field work and documentary research that I have been carrying out for over a decade. So far, I have located the staggering number of 332 zones, where grindstone quarries can be found and with just over 1600 remains pinpointed.

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Once the colour red has been treated ( The colours in Basque I: red), we will now turn to black. Regarding the morphology of the word, for a long time we have been presented with a duality of forms: beltz in the center and east of Euskal Herria, and baltz in the west. In the General Dictionary of Euskera, Koldo Mitxelena reconstructs the form *berets/beretz as the origin of the word beltz, and also reminds us of its similarity to the Aquitanian (belex) and the Iberian (beles) forms.

From there, today some Basquephiles distinguish the root bel as the first component of the word beltz, which could have the meaning of ‘black, dark’. Other Basque composed words give us way to think so: arbel ‘slate, black stone’, goibel ‘dark sky’, orbel ‘litter, fallen leaf’, ubel ‘purple’. In any case, beltz is a word that vanishes in the prehistory of the Basque language.

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Sardineras in the Our Lady of El Carmen procession (16/07/1996). Author: X. Dueñas.

Like a flash from the past, I recall when I was going past the building where “Charo” lived on my way to school, where she would be leaning out of the window. She would comment on how much I took after my maternal grandfather, not so much for his moustache as for his build.

“Charo” (Rosario Santín), nicknamed the Bella (Beauty) or Gitana (gypsy woman), was one of the last and best known sardineras (women sardine sellers) of Santurtzi. The story goes (though debatable) that she was the model for the sculpture in tribute to this trade. The work of Joaquín Lucarini, the statue was unveiled on 8 September 1964 and stands on the promenade of the same name.

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