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Galician researchers open 15th century tomb to test Columbus link theory | Spain

Spanish researchers have opened the tomb of a 15th-century cleric and unearthed his bones in an attempt to test the theory that Christopher Columbus originated in Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia rather than the Republic of Genoa.

Although the explorer is generally believed to have been born in Italy in 1451, some claim he was actually born in Spain – either in Galicia, Catalonia, Valencia, Mallorca or Guadalajara – while others have argued that he was in fact Portuguese.

On Monday, a team of conservators, archaeologists and forensic anthropologists working in the church of San Martín de Sobrán in the Galician town of Vilagarcía de Arousa opened the tomb of Johan Marinho de Soutomaior, a nobleman and archdeacon who , according to the Galician camp of Columbus, was possibly the navigator’s cousin.

DNA will be extracted from the seven bone fragments exhumed from the tomb and then compared to samples taken from the remains of Christopher Columbus and those of his brother and son. The researchers also collected bone samples from another church in the area where other possible relatives of the explorer were believed to have been buried.

The Galician Columbus Association, which supports the theory that Columbus originated in the region around the Pontevedra estuary, points out that the surname Colón (Spanish for Columbus) is well documented in the region. It has also been suggested that Christopher Columbus may have been the Galician knight Pedro Álvarez de Soutomaior, also known by the nickname Pedro Madruga (Peter the Early Riser).

“It seems that we are closer to obtaining the DNA of a Soutomaior,” association president Eduardo Esteban Meruéndano told La Voz de Galicia.

Columbus died in the Spanish city of Valladolid in Spain in 1506, but wanted to be buried on the island of Hispaniola, now shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. His remains were taken there in 1542, moved to Cuba in 1795, and then brought to Seville in 1898 when Spain lost Cuba after the Spanish-American War.

Although samples were taken from the remains of Columbus between 2004 and 2005, researchers had to wait 16 years for the development of the technology needed for proper analysis to determine the explorer’s true origins.

“There is no doubt on our part [about his Italian origin]but we can provide objective data that can… close a series of existing theories,” José Antonio Lorente, the lead scientist of the DNA study at the University of Granada, said last year.