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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Columbus mystery unravels
Zinc box containing remains of Diego Columbus
Scientists hope to identify Columbus's remains with DNA taken from his brother's bones
The mystery of Christopher Columbus's final resting place may be about to be solved.

Up to now, Spain and the Dominican Republic have both claimed to have the remains of the man credited with discovering America.

Christopher Columbus
Columbus: Majorcan or Genoese?
On Tuesday, Spanish scientists opened the tomb said to be of Christopher Columbus's younger brother, Diego, trying to settle the dispute once and for all.

They hope to compare DNA taken from Diego's remains with DNA from both the disputed graves of his brother.

"These [Diego's] are the most interesting bones of all, because they will determine not just where Columbus is buried but above all whether he originated from Genoa or Majorca," says historian Marcial Castro, who leads the research.

One theory holds that Columbus was the son of a Genoese wool merchant, Domenico Colombo, another that he was the illegitimate child of the Prince of Viana, the failed pretender to the throne of Aragon.

When Christopher Columbus died - in 1506, according to his will - his remains were to be buried in America.

But no church of sufficient stature existed there at that time, so he was buried in a monastery in the Spanish city of Valladolid.

Eventually, in 1537, Columbus's remains were sent for burial to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic.

Later they were moved at least twice because of political upheavals. First, to Cuba, in 1795, and then to Seville, in 1898, when Cuba won independence from Spain.

Columbus's ship would look like this one
Columbus's remains had been moved several times
In 1877, workers digging inside the Santo Domingo cathedral unearthed a box containing 13 large bone fragments and 28 small ones. It was inscribed with the name of Christopher Columbus.

Those remains are now buried at a Columbus monument in the Dominican capital. The Dominicans say the Spaniards must have taken the wrong body.

Scientists hope to get permission from Spanish and Dominican authorities to open the two graves.

Diego's remains, contained in a small zinc box, were dug up from the garden of a ceramics factory outside the city of Seville.

Final results could be months or even years away.

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 ON THIS STORY
Matt Prodger reports
"It's complicated and far from foolproof"
See also:

11 Jun 02 | Americas
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