Jose Miguel Barandiaran was born the last day of 1889, in Ataun, Gipuzkoa. He spent his childhood in a Christian environment, filled with very ancient myths and traditions. He learned to read and write at the school of the village where the practice of the ring was severely carried out. This practice consisted of passing a ring to the child who spoke in Euskera (Basque language), and the child who had the ring at the end of the day was punished. All this contributed to José Miguel's dislike of the school. Nevertheless, he attended this school until the age of 14, when he decided to become a priest.
He rapidly devoted himself to study the History of Religion. He decided to do some research by himself, considering that it was logical to begin by studying his own people. At this moment his devotion to the investigation of the Archaeology and Ethnography of the Basque Country began.
In 1916 Aranzadi met two professors named Aranzadi and Eguren. The three researchers formed the prehistoric research team Aranzadi-Barandiarán-Eguren, which carried out so much exploration, excavations and research during the next 20 years, until they separated because of the 1936 War.
In 1935, at a London´s conference, he was appointed member of the standing board of the International Congress of Anthropology and Ethnography. One year later, General Franco's insurrection forced Jose Miguel to go into exile in the northern Basque country. He lived in Biarritz first. In 1941, he moved to Sara, where he spent the last 13 years of exile. Those years of exile gave him the chance to know and investigate that part of the Basque Country, which he hadn't been familiar with.
Finally, in October 1953, after 17 years in exile, he returned to his home town where he started his archaeological excavations again. He taught fieldwork techniques to young prehistorians who were finishing their University studies for many years.
All these works were rewarded at an academic level by three Doctorates "Honoris causa", granted to José Miguel by the Universities of the Basque Country (1978), Deusto (1986) and Complutense of Madrid (1987).
José Miguel de Barandiarán died on 21st December 1991 at the age of 102. Nowadays, he is considered as the patriarch of the Basque culture. Many Basque Country’s streets or squares carry his name.