An international team of scientists gathering in Spain Wednesday will launch a project to determine once and for all where famed explorer Christopher Columbus came from by examining his DNA.
While Columbus has long been claimed by Italy, there is also speculation he may have been Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian or even Polish. There is little known about his early history, and the project is designed to settle the question.
In 2003, a team from the Spanish University of Granada’s medical school established, through DNA research, that bones in a tomb in the cathedral of Seville were those of Columbus, settling a dispute with the Dominican Republic which claimed his body was buried there.
At that time DNA technology was not advanced enough to determine much else. Breakthroughs in the technology since then, however, have made it possible to now roughly ascertain the area of person’s ancestry.
The bones of Columbus, his son Hernando and his brother Diego are to be examined at Granada University, with genetic material sent to laboratories in Italy and the United States.
To kick off the project, the University of Granada is hosting a gathering what it is calling the first world meeting of Columbus researchers, who are presenting evidence for their different theories about the explorer’s origins. The scientists and historians brought with them documentation, artifacts and reportedly even some genetic material.
Columbus’s four transatlantic voyages on behalf of Spanish monarchs between 1492 and 1504 opened a door to Europe’s colonization of the Americas, then known as the New World.
Columbus died on May 20, 1506, and was buried in the Spanish city of Valladolid.