University of Granada: Study of Christopher Columbus’ DNA will reveal his true origins | Culture


With the most advanced genetic technology available, one of the greatest historical puzzles of all time could be solved next October: where Christopher Columbus was born, the explorer credited with the discovery of America. An investigation by the University of Granada, requiring the collaboration of laboratories in Granada, Florence, Rome, Texas and Mexico, will determine his place of birth on the basis of a genetic analysis of the bones of the navigator and a comparison with those thought to belong to family members. . What the history books have long held to be true may soon need to be revised. “We are at the most decisive stage, after a long wait for the advanced genetic analysis technology that would guarantee the best chance of success,” say the researchers behind the project, which is called Columbus DNA: His True Identity .

Columbus died on May 20, 1506 in Valladolid, his birthplace still not conclusively established. José Antonio Lorente, professor of forensic and forensic medicine at the University of Granada, together with anthropologist Juan Carlos Álvarez Merino and historian Marcial Castro unearthed the remains of Columbus and his son Hernando in 2003 from a grave from Seville Cathedral. Since the tomb is on the Spanish Cultural Heritage List (BIC), it was a complex process. When finally some of the bones were unearthed, they were transferred to the University of Granada, along with those of Diego Columbus, the explorer’s brother, buried in the La Cartuja-Pickman factory in Seville. Once at the university, they were kept in a fortified hall. During this stage of the investigation, the familial connection between the three sets of skeletal remains – the two brothers, Christopher and Diego, and Columbus’ son, Hernando – was confirmed.

Anthropologist José Antonio Lorente at a press conference.MIGUELANGELMOLINA / EFE

The Dominican Republic, however, maintains that the navigator rests in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, in a coffin found in 1877 with the inscription “Christopher Columbus”. This claim is due to the fact that the bodies of the explorer and his son were transferred from the Iberian Peninsula in 1523 to Hispaniola – a territory that is today divided between the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic and French-speaking Haiti – where Christopher Colomb wanted to be burried. The bodies remained in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo until 1793, when Spain ceded the Caribbean island to France. The coffins were then transported to the Cathedral of Havana, Cuba, where they remained until Cuban independence in 1898. From there they were sent back to Spain and placed in the Cathedral of Seville, where the bodies have since rested in an impressive tomb. designed by Spanish artist Arturo Mélida. Researchers are now trying to get the government of the Dominican Republic to hand over the rest of what they believe to be Christopher Columbus for analysis.

The remains were sent for analysis to the university itself and to various European and American laboratories. To avoid any suspicion of foul play if it were to be proven that the explorer was not from the Italian city of Genoa, as was generally believed until now, Italy is also involved. The results will be made public in October in a documentary directed by Regis Francisco López, produced by Spain’s public broadcaster RTVE, and Story Productions, the same producers who made last year’s documentary about the European-Berber origins of the Guanches. , indigenous peoples. from Tenerife.

There are theories that Columbus was a converted Jew and tampered with his ancestry.
There are theories that Columbus was a converted Jew and tampered with his ancestry.

The theory most widely accepted by historians states that Columbus was born in Genoa in northern Italy in 1451 to Giovanni Colombus and Giovanna Fontanarrosa, a family of weavers. Various historical documents, such as the will of his son Hernando Columbus, confirm this. Doubts persist, however, since Columbus himself never wrote a word in Italian, instead using Valencian, Mallorcan, Galician and Portuguese. In fact, there are many theories that claim that the Explorer concealed or falsified his origins either because he was a converted Jew or because of legal complications regarding his inheritance. Reputable historians have said he came from countries as diverse as Spain, Portugal, Croatia and Poland.

According to a statement by researchers at the University of Granada, “this is the most ambitious scientific research to date on the origins of Columbus and compiles the work developed by the various theses that have emerged so far and which have possible genetic information to contrast. Valencia, Portugal, Galicia, Navarre and Mallorca will be some of the possibilities analyzed. “

Meeting of experts from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Granada during the DNA analysis of the skeletal remains attributed to Christopher Columbus.
Meeting of experts from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Granada during the DNA analysis of the skeletal remains attributed to Christopher Columbus.Fermín Rodríguez

International congress

Last week, international authors arrived in Granada to discuss their theories on the origins of Columbus and deliver the material they have collected so far, including documentary sources, historical records and even genetic remains to the Professor Lorente. Francesc Albardaner i Llorens, member of the Catalan Society for Historical Studies, believes that Columbus was born in Valencia into a family of converted Jews. According to this historian, Columbus’ father was an emigrant who arrived in Valencia from Liguria in Italy and married a woman from Valencia. “Being the son of a mixed marriage, he could present himself as a Genoese, as well as as a naturalized subject of the Crown of Aragon”, explains Albardaner i Llorens.

Fernando Branco, professor at the University of Lisbon, believes that the explorer was Portuguese. According to Branco, an honorary member of the Academy of Portuguese History, Columbus’s real name was Pedro Ataíde and he was a privateer or a privateer who fled to Castile in 1485. During this time, historians José and Antonio Mattos e Silva argue that he was the bastard son of the Portuguese princess, Leonor de Aviz. A third theory involving Portugal is proposed by researcher Carlos Evaristo, who insists that in reality Columbus was the son of Ferdinand, the Duke of Visue and Beja, and Isabel Gonçalves, a woman of Jewish descent. . According to this version, Columbus would have been called Salvador Fernandes Zarco and would have been born in the city of Cuba, in the Portuguese region of Alentejo. As an adult, he became a captain and spied on Castile on behalf of King John II of Portugal. The author describes Columbus as a sort of “agent 007” for the Spanish neighbor.

On the other hand, the doctor José Mari Ercilla claims that the explorer was born in the Spanish region of Navarre, in the city of Ainza, and that he carried the HLA-B27 antigen, characteristic of the Cagots, a marginalized minority. living between Spain. and France. He says it is only in Navarre and America that there are towns called Ainza. “This name did not exist in any other part of the world except in America after being discovered by Columbus. It is a place name that only a person born there could know because the Columbus family, according to the royal censuses of Navarre, inhabited this village of only five houses.

The painting 'First landing of Christopher Columbus in America' (1862), by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla y Tolín, from the collection of the Prado Museum.
The painting ‘First landing of Christopher Columbus in America’ (1862), by Dióscoro Teófilo Puebla y Tolín, from the collection of the Prado Museum.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Verd Martorell, president of the Christopher Columbus Cultural Association, maintains that Columbus was the son of Charles, Prince of Viana, who was the brother of Ferdinand II of Aragon, and of Margalida Colom of Mallorca. According to this historian, Columbus was born in Felanitx in Mallorca in 1460 and named an island he discovered in 1498 off the Venezuelan coast Margarita as a tribute to his mother.

However, Eduardo Esteban Meruéndano, president of the Galician Association of Christopher Columbus, Celso García de la Riega, believes that Columbus is originally from Galicia. But Alfonso C. Sanz Núñez, associate professor in the regional geographic analysis department of the Complutense University of Madrid, claims that the explorer was born in Espinosa de Henares in Guadalajara on June 18, 1435 and is buried in Cogulludo in Guadalajara. He says Columbus was the grandson of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, an admiral of Castile and the king’s senior officer in the navy, and the son of Aldonza de Mendoza, Duchess of Arjona. According to Sanz Núñez, when his mother died, she left him 13,000 maravedies – old Spanish currency, one of which today would equal around € 16 – but this inheritance was stolen by his uncle, the Marquis de Santillana. Given his lineage, the Catholic monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand I named Columbus “admiral of the ocean”.

Obviously, there are still many doubts about the true origins of Columbus.

English version by Heather galloway.

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