Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Digne : Basses-Alpes (Provence)

La région de Digne est délimitée par la vallée de la Bléone. La ville de Digne est mentionnée depuis le Ier siècle après JC sous le nom de Dinia : elle est alors la capitale du peuple celte des Bodiontici mais le site est fréquenté depuis la Préhistoire pour ses eaux thermales.

The area around Digne is delimitated by the valley of the Bléone river. The town of Digne was mentioned as Dinia in the 1st century AD : it was the capital of the Celtic Bodiontici but the site had been occupied since prehistoric times because of thermal waters.

  • Echantillon représentatif / Sample :

Taille réelle / Full Scale

  • Analyse anthropologique sommaire / Brief anthropological analysis :

- Type 1 :
Complexion intermédiaire, tête ronde, brachymorphe, petit mais large nez implanté bas, larges mâchoires, yeux éloignés
~ Alpinoïde

Intermediate complexion, round-headed, brachymorphic, little but large low-rooted, large jaws, wide set eyes
~ Alpinoid

Sans surprise, il s'agit du type dominant dans cette région alpine de la Provence ainsi que nous l'avions constaté à Barcelonnette et en fort contraste avec Castellane. La différenciation entre pays gavots et pays proprement provençaux se confirme. On trouve par ailleurs des individus plus "carrés" et robustes, exclusivement masculins.

Unsurprisingly enough, this is the main type in that Alpine area of Provence as we had already noticed in Barcelonnette and contrary to Castellane. The differenciation between Gavot and proper Provençal areas is being confirmed. More square-faced and robust - exclusively male - individuals are found as well.

- Type 2 : Complexion claire, plutôt leptomorphe, tête carrée, haut et large nez, pommettes hautes, menton proéminent, yeux rapprochés
~ Nordoïde

Light complexion, rather leptomorphic, square-box face, high-rooted and large nose, high cheekbones, prominent chin, close set eyes
~ Nordoid

Ce type est très clairement alpin et annonce les types physiques de la vallée du Rhône. Cependant, on trouve toujours des individus nordo-méditerranéens dinarisés plus classiques et plus méridionaux.

This type is clearly Alpine and announced the physical types that one can find the Rhône valley. Nevertheless, more classical and southern-looking dinaricized Nordo-Mediterranean individuals are to be found.

  • Morphotypes finaux / Final morphotypes :


  1. Hello this is Platypus of old anthroforum fame.

    Im Off Topic, but i wanted to ask you about the town of Bayonne and the issue of basque identity in S.W France.

    I've just come back from a trip to Santiago de Compostella. On our way we stopped to Bayonne, and par hazard, without knowing, we got there in the middle of the local fète. We rapidly joined in and it was great fun and a night to remember.

    But afterwards we considered a couple of points:

    Nobody spoke Basque. Average age was early twenties. (later, on our way back we passed through Bilbao and San Sebastian and nobody spoke Basque over there either)

    The dress code was white, with red scarf around neck, and was completed with a longer scarf around the waist and ideally a red basque berret. This is the same uniform of the S.Firmin festival in Pamplona, Navarra. ( obviously i bought immediately scarfs and t-shirt).People stopped us asking if we were Spanish ( we are from Italy).

    Finally. The so called ''basque type'' was rare (it was in the minority also in the two towns of the Basque country i visited in Spain). The overwhelming majority of the kids where French (rare foregniers, French of african and north african descent were virtually absent). ''Dinarics'' were in the minority. The common mixes wher Atlanto med and tall Alpinoids. There were several blonde haired people.

    In short the Basques north of the Pyrenees just seemed ordinary French to me ( as south of the pyrenees they just seemed Spaniards, though possibly less friendly than the Galicians Castillians/Leonese and Asturians we met during our pilgrimage).

    Saluts Platy.

  2. Hi Platy ! As you can see, I haven't evolved much, still in that anthro stuff. :)

    I visited Bilbao and San Sebastian last year and indeed very few people could speak Basque. I believe Spanish Basque people following my blog could tell you more about the linguistic situation in "Hegoalde". What I can tell is that Bilbao has somehow always been on the linguistic border with the Romance-speaking (and formerly Basque-speaking) Encartaciones. Still, internal migrations from other areas in Spain might explain why the Basque language is such an oddity in Bilbao. Nevertheless, I couldn't hear much Basque either in Ondarroa, a little port on the coast.

    San Sebastian has had a long tradition of being Spanish-speaking due to the fact that the town was built by Gascon-speaking settlers coming from Bayonne. Their descendants just switched from one Romance language to another around the XVIIth century (Gascon still being spoken in Pasajes up to the XIXth century). Placenames in San Sebastian and surroundings areas still are Gascon : Morlans, Urgull, Molinao, Cabo Higuer, ... Undoubtedly enough the Basque language was spoken alongside Gascon which was the language of trade. Note that the area of San Sebastian used to belong to the diocese of Dax (formerly Aquae Tarbellicae) then to Bayonne, both in modern France.

  3. About Bayonne : you visited the town during the local fiesta. Basically speaking, it's an imitation of the famous San Fermines in Pamplona. It began in the 50s even though "feria" as it's now named in SW France was traditional. Popular culture in SW France is heavily "castillanized". Singing "Vino griego" is about the best that can be done.

    You have to know two main things about Bayonne. Firstly, the town has been Gascon-speaking since at least the XIth century and most autochtonous families can trace their roots back in areas on the right bank of the Adour river ie in Gascon-speaking lands (even though some villages on the left bank also speak Gascon but it'd be too complex). You may have noticed that the streets all had Gascon names. For centuries, Basque people living in the neighbouring countryside had mixed feelings about Bayonne. Because of the town's influence, they all had to learn the Gascon language. Eventually, Bayonne "gasconized" the then villages of Anglet and Biarritz in the XVIIth century. In the XXth century, Bayonne was on the verge of going even further with villages such as Bassussarry or Bardos switching to Gascon. Then the French language arrived in the 30s : that was the end of that old process, the Gascon language was wiped out and Bayonne lost its distinctive urban character. It became a French town and soon, for touristic purposes, it got to be the capital of the French Basque Country.

    As a consequence, despite now being considered a Basque town, Bayonne has been Romance-speaking since the Middle-Ages. Parts of my home Béarn were still Basque-speaking back then. One should not underestimate the importance of Bayonne for the province of Labourd but it cannot be denied that the town itself and neighbouring areas (Mousseroles, Biarritz, Anglet, ...) were Gascon-speaking and had been so for centuries. Still if you want to refine the analysis, you have to know that the elite of Bayonne somehow had a greater proportion of romanized Basque surnames than ordinary people living in the town. This is the proof that very old families somehow retained a Basque heritage while the "peuple" originated from the now Landes département.

  4. This is about Bayonne, the town which illustrates best the process of romanization in former Basque lands. If you want, I'll soon upload "Landais" samples that will help you know the way people from this area look. But that won't explain everything. The fact is that the local fiesta in Bayonne mostly attracts tourists from other parts of France. Another harsh fact is that SW France as a whole is France's most "colonized" area. I'm all but a closed-minded man, I'm just analyzing the way things are. It's the abrupt truth that autochtonous people at best amount for one third of the inhabitants of SW France. During my scolarity in villages in the outskirts of Pau, I used to be the only autochtonous guy. When in "lycée", I presume that about 10% of students had Gascon surnames.

    The situation is a bit distinct in the deep Basque Country. There, youngsters still speak Basque and "foreign" influence (excuse me !) is minimal. The whole coast is lost though. "Heliotropism" is too strong : people want to settle in coastal Labourd. The province of Soule is lost as well as Basque consciousness is rather low in that tiny Pyrenean valley. In adjacent Gascon lands, Gascon is a dead language. WW1 massacres and the 60s' migrations (either Pied-Noir or Spanish) have considerably reduced the local population.

    So here's the basic answer : you visited the town of Bayonne which has been populated by Gascon people since the early Middle-Ages and who now amount for about one third of historical Gascon lands (note that Gascon people can somehow differ from Basque people phenotypically wise). Still, you should have met with Basque people living in the town under normal conditions : when in Bayonne, I always recognize Basque girls for their very peculiar features such as grey eyes or a delicate convex nose. They can be rather pretty. Nevermind. You were in Bayonne during the local fiesta : it mostly attracts tourists.

    To sum up :

    - Bayonne is not really Basque.
    - There are not many autochtonous people in SW France anymore.
    - Mostly tourists come and visit Bayonne during the "fiestas".

    Let's end with the Gascon anthem of Bayonne !

    But my favorite "Bayonnaise" song is the following one : "Los Tilholèrs".

    Now unfortunately sung in French :

  5. Herau, Your knowledge of politics and history, of language and toponyms is impressive. Thank you very much for such an exhaustive answer.

    I often have troubles in matching and identifying contemporary administrative and regional division of France to the historical provinces which i knew, and maybe many foreigners know better, through the notions of France's history up to the revolution.

    The gradual dissolution of SW France ethno linguistic identity certainly saddens me, as i am one of those that love to dream about the past. But the experience of the fete in Bayonne made me realize of how the use of a few symbols: Colours (white, green , red), logo's, songs, slogans and a simple and effective uniform (a couple of red scarfs on a white dress, all of Navarro-Pyrenean origin), succeeded in unifying for a few nights hundred of thousand of modern french kids under the banner of a pseudo-basque identity.

    Everybody seemed proud of being Basque to me. When i bought for my self the scarfs and t-shirts i felt myself happy to belong to the lot and authorized to drink.

    All this reminded me of some months ago, when in the town i live at the moment in northern Italy, Bergamo in Lombardy (not my town of origin), hosted the gathering of the ''Alpini'' mountain fighting unit. around 500.000 soldiers ed ex conscripts mostly middle aged, to which we have to add maybe another hundred thousand of locals.

    As in Bayonne there was a distinctive dress code: the Italian flag and the Alpini green beret with a black feather (somewhat similar to Robin hood's traditional cap). Everybody in town joined in, and it was fascinating to notice how in a province with such a strong Lega Nord electorate(and hence federalist, when not separatist, and very anti-Roman), for three days everybody was proud to be Italian. As in Bayonne, a never saw such large masses unified in the name of patriotism..and all because of a few symbols: Colors, a simple uniform, a few slogans and the promise of unlimited drinking and anarchy for a three days.. I start to feel that the success of Nazis, fascists, communists and of other political parties, were certainly in part due to a wise use of symbols combined with the promise of a disruption of the accepted rules.

    Thats maybe why in Italy the opposition keeps failing because they insist of focusing their campaigns on their political program, while Lega Nord and Berlusconi have succeeded as Hitler and Mussolini did in the past because they directly appeal to our ''inner child'' with the use of symbols and of rough but effective slogans.




J'ai choisi de laisser les commentaires ouverts. Cependant vous perdrez votre temps à me sermonner et à me traiter de fasciste (ce que je ne suis vraiment pas) : je vous prie de lire mon introduction qui saura vous rassurer quant à mes intentions. Dans l'amateurisme le plus complet, je n'agis que dans un but de connaissance. Je comprendrai aisément que vous ne partagiez pas mon intérêt pour l'histoire du peuplement du monde, abstenez-vous de vous donner facilement bonne conscience sur le dos d'un travail qui se veut avant tout documentaire et humble.

I've chosen to let people comment freely on my posts. Nevertheless, you'll lose your time taunting me and calling me a fascist (which I'm really not) : I pray you to read my introduction which will reassure that my intentions genuinely aim at achieving amateurish knowledge. I understand that you may not share my passion for the history of the peopling of the World, just don't let me know as clear conscience gained by bashing a humble documentary work is useless.