James Rendel Harris
The Basques of south-western France and northern Spain have an extremely ancient and distinctive culture that includes a language, Euskara, with no undisputed link with any other language. The late Larry Trask (1944-2004) provided a sober view(a) of the language while Edo Nyland (1941-2009) perceived extensive links between Basque and other languages.
Professor John Campbell in a 15-page paper entitled The Hittites in America(e) began his dissertation with a claim that the language of the Iroquois and the Basques were closely related. In Peter de Roo’s History of America Before Columbus, he recounts the then (1900) commonly held idea that there was a linguistic link between the Basques and various native American tribes, and puts forward the view that the Basques were originally American[890.1.164].
However fanciful this idea may seem, there appears to be little doubt that the Basques, master whalers of the 16th and 17th centuries(i), had regular contact with the coast of Labrador(j) .
An 18th century abbot, Dominique Lahetjuzan (1766-1818?), announced that his studies indicated that Euskara had been spoken in the Garden of Eden! In the 19th century S.H. Blanc offered examples from the language that implied great antiquity. One was that the Basque word for knife means literally “stone that cuts,” and that the word for ceiling means “top of the cavern”.
One website(c) is devoted to establishing a link between the Basques, Atlantis and the Algonquins of North America. Bizarrely, at the end of the 19th century, a study of land snails in the Pyrenees led Léopold de Folin to suggest that the ancestors of the Basques came from Atlantis!
Alexander Braghine in his own search for Atlantis relates how a Basque missionary when speaking in his own language was understood by the Indians of the Peten district in Guatemala. Dr. James Rendel Harris (1852-1941), the English biblical scholar, claimed that the Mexican province of Tabasco derived its name from an ancient Egyptian word meaning land of the Basques.
A further tale from Braghine records how a person from Georgia in the Caucasus was similarly understood by Basques. This would normally be considered some sort of an urban myth but it should be noted that the linguist Arthur Holmer who is studying(b) the connections between the languages of the Caucasus and Basque believes that the number of similarities are too great to be explained by coincidence alone.*A recent (2019) BBC article has highlighted claims of possible linguistic, toponymic, mythological and even DNA links between Armenians and Basques(k). It is interesting that Armenia and Georgia are neighbours.*
I have been unable to find any corroboration of the claimed Guatemalan connection with the Basque language.
*It is frequently noted that the Basques have a legend that they originally came from Atlantis, which they call Atlaintika. Since names, such as ‘Atlantis’, recorded by Solon were Hellenised versions of the words found in the temple ‘registers’ in Sais, it seems more likely that the Basques would have had a different word to describe any former homeland. It is probable that ‘Atlaintika’ is a modification of a loanword adopted from their neighbours.*
Apart from the suggestion of language similarities some have pointed out facial resemblances between Central American Indians (old Maya or modern Lancadon Indians) and Basques. The Basques believe in a mythical seven-headed serpent (disintegrating comet?), Erensuge while the Aztecs worshipped snakes. The Basques used to count in twenties rather than tens, a practice also found in Central America. The Basque ballgame of jai alai played with a wicker basket tied to the players arm is vaguely similar to pok-ta-pok played by the Maya. Fortunately the Basques did not adopt the Mayan custom of beheading the captain of the losing team. It is reported that both the Basques and the Indians of Mexico and Peru practiced artificial head flattening.
The Basques are genetically distinct, having a uniquely high incidence of blood group O, a lower than usual frequency of group A and the lowest record of group B in Europe. They have the highest frequency of Rh-negative blood in the world apart from some Berber tribes.
The Cro-Magnons were tall with larger brain capacity than modern humans. They occupied areas of France and Spain at the end of the last Ice Age. They were similar to the Guanches of the Canary Islands. It is thought that the Basques are related to them. The Cro-Magnons were also artistically talented although limited to primitive tools.
Recent studies have strongly indicated that following a study of the genomes of human skeletons from El Portalón, Atapuerca, the results point to prehistoric Iberian farmers as the closest match to the modern Basques(h).
Overall the evidence for the Basques being remnants of the survivors of Atlantis is weak.
That the Basques are an ancient people is undisputed, but a very early connection with Central America is at best, just remotely possible. That they are the Atlanteans of Plato’s tale is, in my opinion, even more unlikely.
The latest (2015) genetic studies(f) indicate that the Basques are descended from “early farmers who mixed with local hunters before becoming isolated for millennia.” It was claimed later in 2015 that the origins of the Basques had been discovered in Northern Spain after studying the DNA of eight skeletons found in the El Portolan Cave(g).
A website with a number of English and Spanish papers on the subject of the Basques is also worth a visit(d).
(c) See: Archive 2935
(j) National Geographic (08.2018)