Archiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2004-10 > 1096994703

Subject: Interesting News
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 2004 12:45:03 EDT

Columbus may not be buried in Caribbean

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Researchers who gleaned DNA from 500-year-old bone
slivers said Friday that preliminary data suggests Christopher Columbus might be
buried in Spain, rather than a rival tomb in the Dominican Republic, but for
now they can't be sure.
The team said some DNA samples taken from bones that Spain says are the
explorer's matched DNA from a body widely believed to be that of his brother
Both were unearthed in the southern Spanish city of Seville over the past two
years as part of a pioneering high-tech experiment to settle a 100-year-old
argument over whether Columbus is buried in Spain or the Dominican Republic,
both of which boast ornate graves that purport to hold his remains.
But DNA degrades over time, and the genetic material the Spanish team
analyzed is in awful shape. "It is degraded, it is contaminated and we don't have
much of it," forensic geneticist Jose Antonio Lorente said.
Of the samples taken from the two purported Columbus brothers, 80 percent is
indecipherable so far but 20 percent is identical. New techniques are needed
to be able to use the other 80 percent.
"This is like halftime at a soccer game with the score 1-0. Do you know just
because of that who is going to win? No, you don't," Lorente said.
Lorente was part of a research team that included two high school teachers
and a forensic anthropologist who set out two years ago to settle the enigma
over who has Columbus's corpse.
They dug up and extracted DNA material from at least three sets of bones: the
one Spain claims came from Columbus, one historians are certain belong to
his son Hernando and one that researchers believe is Columbus' brother Diego.
All three were buried in Seville: Hernando and his father in the cathedral
that dominates the city's historic neighborhood, and Diego first in a chapel
there, and then moved outside town in the 1990s.
Hernando is key because historians are convinced his bones were never moved
after his 1539 burial.
Those of Columbus and his brother Diego were moved -- in Columbus' case
repeatedly, leaving room for doubt as to where they finally ended up.
What's still missing is genetic material from the body buried in the
Dominican capital Santo Domingo, where a sprawling, cross-shaped lighthouse called
the Faro a Colon is also said to hold the remains of the explorer known in
Spanish as Cristobal Colon.
Columbus died and was buried in the northern Spanish city of Valladolid on
May 20, 1506. He had asked to be buried in the Americas, but no church of
sufficient stature existed there.
Three years later his remains were moved to a monastery on La Cartuja, next
to Seville. In 1537, Maria de Rojas y Toledo, widow of another of Columbus'
sons, Diego, sent the bones of her husband and his father to the cathedral in
Santo Domingo for burial. There they lay until 1795, when Spain ceded the
island of Hispaniola to France and decided Columbus' remains should not fall into
the hands of foreigners.
A set of remains that the Spaniards believed were Columbus' were first
shipped to Havana, Cuba, and then back to Seville when the Spanish-American War
broke out in 1898.
In 1877, however, workers digging in the Santo Domingo cathedral unearthed a
leaden box containing bones and bearing the inscription, "Illustrious and
distinguished male, don Cristobal Colon."
Claiming these are the genuine remains, the Dominicans say the Spaniards took
the wrong body back in 1795.

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