Scientists confirm Christopher Columbus' bones
Scientists said Friday they have confirmed that at least some of Christopher Columbus' remains were buried inside a Spanish cathedral, a discovery that could help end a century-old debate over the explorer's final resting place.
DNA samples from 500-year-old bone slivers could contradict the Dominican Republic's competing claim that the explorer was laid to rest in the New World, said Marcial Castro, a Spanish historian and teacher who devised the study that began in 2002.
However, some of Columbus' remains also could have been buried in the Dominican Republic, he said.
The announcement came a day before the 500th anniversary of Columbus' death in the Spanish city of Valladolid.
A forensic team led by Spanish geneticist Jose Antonio Lorente compared DNA from bones buried in a cathedral in Seville with DNA from remains known to be from Columbus' brother, Diego, who also is buried in the southern Spanish city.
"There is absolute matchup between the mitochondrial DNA we have studied from Columbus' brother and Christopher Columbus," Castro said in a telephone interview.
Mitochondria are cell components rich in the genetic material.
Juan Bautista Mieses, the director of the Columbus Lighthouse — a cross-shaped building several blocks long that the Dominican government built to house the explorer's remains — dismissed the researchers' findings. He insisted that Columbus is buried in the Dominican Republic.
"The remains have never left Dominican territory," Bautista said.
Castro and his colleagues say they had tried in vain for years to persuade the Dominican Republic to open up the monument to compare the remains inside with those of Diego Columbus.
"Now, studying the remains in the Dominican Republic is more necessary and exciting than ever," Castro said.
Although his team is convinced the bones in Seville are from Columbus, he said, that does not necessarily mean the ones in Santo Domingo are not. Columbus' body was moved several times after his death, and the tomb in Santo Domingo might conceivably also hold part of the explorer's body.
"We don't know what is in there," Castro said.
Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, landing at the island of Hispaniola, which today comprises the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Historians have been debating for more than 100 years whether Spain or the Dominican Republic has legitimate bragging rights to the remains of Columbus.
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