Basque Gold or the First Inhabitants of Navarre

In the late 19th century, the English scientist Edward Spencer Dodgson made a very interesting discovery quite by accident. Already a well-known Basque scholar, Dodgson decided (for the sake of broadening his horizons) to study the Armenian language.

The result was quite unexpected: after just a two-month course, Dodgson noticed that many Armenian words were almost identical to Basque ones. He published his reflections on these coincidences in 1884 in the journal “Euskera” (Basque Language). The list of observed parallels included more than fifty words.

It was a bolt from the blue, especially for those scholars who had long been influenced by the hypothesis of the Georgian origin of the Basque language. After all, these were very important layers of vocabulary, traditionally considered the primordial foundation of every language.

The second important discovery in the field of ethno-linguistic relations between the Basques and Armenians was made in the 1920s. A young Basque philologist, Bernardo Estornes Lasa, later a leading scientist and academic, was collecting Basque folklore.

So, in the village of Isaba, almost on the easternmost border of Navarre, he recorded a local legend that the village of Isaba was founded by Armenians, who were the first inhabitants of Navarre and the ancestors of the Basque people.

The legend specifies that the leader of the Basque people was named Aitor, that he came from Armenia with his seven sons, and in their honor, he founded seven settlements in Navarre.

It is also said that the arriving Armenians, the ancestors of the Basques, knew the secret of metal processing. Subsequently, an ancient manuscript was found in the village archives – a historical chronicle that confirms the oral traditions.

It is noteworthy that in the Basque language the name Isaba translates as “ancestors’ trace”, and while it may seem utterly incredible, the fact remains: in the village of Isaba, there still exists a road named Erminia. Folk tradition associates it with the name Armenia – in honor of the first settlers of Navarre.

All of this could seem like the product of Basque elders’ imagination, but then science intervened, specifically linguistics, historiography, and mythology. It turned out that in the Basque language, the name of the legendary ancestor of the Basques, Aitor, literally means “coming from Aya” or “originating from Aya”, which closely matches the Armenian phrase “ayi tor” (grandson of an Armenian).

Interesting is that in the Basque language there is the expression “aitoren seme”, meaning “pure-blooded”, which literally translates to “son of Aitor”. This suggests that in ancient times among the Basques, only those who traced their origin directly from one of the direct descendants of the progenitor Aitor, who came from Armenia, were considered pure-blooded.

Further searches led to new discoveries. It turned out that all these facts and coincidences are just the tip of the iceberg of the greatest mystery of European civilization. As it was revealed, the theory of the Armenian origin of the Basques has deep roots in their historical memory and is reflected in Basque written sources.

Already in the 16th and 17th centuries, founders of Basque national historiography, Esteban de Garibay, Andres de Poza, and Baltasar de Echave, considered Armenia the homeland of the Basques and tried to prove this based on Basque-Armenian toponymic coincidences. Moreover, Andres de Poza directly states that the Basques are newcomers from Armenia.

He even specifies that the city of Tarragona on the Mediterranean coast of Spain was founded by Armenians. The word Tarragona closely resembles the name of the Armenian region of Taron, the ancient form of which is Taravna.

The list of primary sources is supplemented by the Spanish historian of the 17th century, Gaspar Escolano, who in his book about the history of the city of Valencia (1610) writes that after the Great Flood, patriarch Tubal and his people landed on the eastern coast of Spain and that they spoke Armenian.

Moreover, Gaspar Escolano describes with extraordinary precision the places where, according to legend, the remains of the Armenians—the first inhabitants of Spain—were buried. Nowadays, churches are mainly located in those places, mostly in modern Catalonia, suggesting that these points have long been considered sacred.

Unfortunately, all this information had been neglected for far too long. When, in 1928, the German linguist Josef Karst published the results of his many years of research, presenting over three hundred Basque-Armenian lexical correspondences, along with a significant number of matching phonetic and grammatical elements, including declension and conjugation systems, etc., it evoked a rather negative reaction from proponents of traditional approaches in linguistics.

The reason was abundantly clear: Josef Karst dared to re-examine the linguistic map of Europe and pave a new way where it seemed everything had already been firmly established. The Armenian language was considered Indo-European, while Basque was not. Here, neither the hundreds of matches, nor folk legends, nor historical data made any difference.

Despite these circumstances, the vast system of Basque-Armenian correspondences demanded proper analysis and interpretation. Research needed to continue.

For this purpose, in 1993, under the Armenian Studies Center of Yerevan State University, the Armenian-Basque International Scientific Journal “Araks” was founded, its editorial board comprising many renowned Armenologists and Basque scholars from different countries.

In the “Araks” journal, about three dozen scientific papers were published, addressing various aspects of the Basque-Armenian issue, including linguistic material, mythology, ethnography, historiography, and so on.

These academic programs are carried out in close collaboration with the relevant organizations of the Basque Country in both Spain and France (Gascony).

As a result of these studies, we can now report the following findings:

  1. The most comprehensive list of Basque-Armenian parallels has been compiled, numbering almost a thousand lexical units, including many grammatical formats.

In essence, one can form complex sentences that will primarily be understandable to both Basques and Armenians. Such an abundance of similarities cannot be considered coincidental, and the possibility of borrowing is ruled out due to the vast distance separating the two peoples.

  1. 2. In the Armenian Highlands and in Basque Country, there exists a vast number of toponymic names that sometimes approach simple repetition. Previously, such overlaps weren’t of particular interest to scholars since similar elements might exist in other regions as well.

However, Armenian-Basque toponymic parallels have an important characteristic: in most cases, they translate identically in both languages, for instance: Arm. “aran” (valley) – Basque “aran” (valley), Arm. “karbi” (under the stone) – Basque “karbe” (under the stone), Arm. “tsaval” (width) – Basque “sabal” (width), etc.

  1. 3. As previously mentioned, according to Basque folk tradition, Armenia was considered the homeland of the Basques. Moreover, various sources note that the newcomers from Armenia knew the secret of metal processing.

In this context, the self-designation of the Basques — “euskaldun” — which stems from the root “eusk”, is noteworthy. In different dialects, this appears as eusk, usk, esku, ask, etc.

This root is etymologically linked to the Armenian word “voski” (gold), existing in Armenian dialects in various forms: iski, veske, aski, uoski, etc. The Armenian word “voski” transitioned into the proper name Voskan, which literally means “possessing gold” and is reminiscent of the ethnic name for Basques “baskon”, recorded in Latin sources as “vascon”.

Interestingly, during the times of the Urartian Kingdom, the southeastern shore of Lake Van, which is the cradle of the Armenian people, was called Khubushkia, which literally means “valley of usks”, i.e., “golden valley”.

In early medieval Armenian sources, Khubushkia already has a different name — Ayots dzor, which translates as “valley of Armenians” or “Armenian valley”. On the other hand, the Urartian inscriptions mention the Ushkiani mountains on the northeastern shore of Lake Urmia. In the times of Strabo, the Ushkiani mountains were already called the Armenian Mountains, and in subsequent Armenian sources, they are known as Voskean — “golden”.

All these facts allow us to conclude that for our ancestors, the concepts “gold miner” and “Armenian” were synonymous, which is also confirmed by Basque folk tales. Of course, it cannot be said that all questions of the Armenian-Basque kinship theory are definitively resolved, but the main thing is clear: there is a profound Armenian layer in Basque civilization that arose as a result of migratory processes in the prehistoric era.

It is universally acknowledged that the Basques are the oldest people in Western Europe. They appeared there long before the arrival of Indo-Europeans, the first invasions of which date back to 1000 BC. Hence, by this time, the Armenian element already existed in Western Europe and subsequently had a significant influence on the development of European civilization.

In Basque folk tales, there are strange mythological characters – the Basajauns, who were masters of the forest and lived in seclusion, away from ordinary people. Similar characters exist in the mythology of various peoples, but the Basque Basajauns have a very important distinctive feature: they knew the secret of metal processing and the cultivation of wheat.

Most likely, at some point, there was a fusion of mythological notions with historical events. The image of naive forest giants might have existed in local mythology even before the Armenians arrived. However, later on, newcomers from Armenia, who possessed the secret of metal processing and wheat cultivation, were identified with the Basajauns. In those times, people capable of melting metal and growing grain could indeed be considered supernatural beings.

Thus, in addition to their language, the Armenians also brought to Europe vital production achievements: metal processing and grain cultivation. Hence, it’s not accidental that in both Basque and Armenian, some agricultural terms almost completely coincide.

It should also be added that, according to archaeological data, the penetration of the Armenoid race to the Iberian Peninsula dates back to the middle of the third millennium BC. The fact that the Basques are Armenoids is universally acknowledged.

It only remains to add that recent genetic research has brought an interesting and unexpected addition to this story. It is known that Armenians face a bone marrow donation problem. Put simply, an Armenian can only receive a bone marrow transplant from another Armenian.

Therefore, scientists are actively searching for donor tissue compatible with Armenians. As a result of these studies, it turned out that the bone tissue most similar to Armenian is that of the Basques. And as the Basque saying goes, “Bere burua ezagutea, da jakitea” — “Knowing oneself is the real science.”

“Yerevan” magazine, N4, 2006

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

One thought on “Basque Gold or the First Inhabitants of Navarre

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *