New analysis of Columbus’s DNA to inquire about his origin

Christopher Columbus He died on May 20, 1506 in Valladolid, leaving as a legacy a question surrounded by mystery: his true origin. The official theory states that it was a Genoese son of a family of weavers, but in recent years other theses argue that it may come from various parts of Spain or other countries, such as Portugal, Croatia and even Poland.

DNA analysis techniques have improved enough to initiate a genetic examination of the rare and precious skeletal remains attributed to Colón, his son Hernando, and his brother Diego.

To try to unravel its origin, Jose Antonio Lorente, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Granada (UGR), led a team in 2003 that managed to exhume the tomb of the admiral located in the Cathedral of Sevilla and extract bone fragments for preliminary analysis and leave them for further study. The small samples have been kept in an armored room at the university.

Now, after nearly 20 years, DNA analysis techniques have improved enough to initiate a genetic examination of the rare and precious skeletal remains attributed to Columbus (about four pieces the size of an almond), his son Hernando (seven pieces, including a tooth) and his brother Diego (12 smaller fragments more deteriorated).

Genetic analysis will be carried out on the skeletal remains attributed to Colón, his son Hernando and his brother Diego. / UGR

The news was released this week at a press conference at the UGR, where it was also announced that TVE and Story Producciones will make a film and a documentary miniseries about this studio, which has a budget of 30,000 euros. The results will be presented next October 12 °.

“Today we have new generation techniques, both in the DNA extraction phase in bone material and teeth, as well as in the amplification and analysis phase, which have radically evolved and are much more sensitive, which allows us to obtain more information. starting from a very small amount of sample ”, Lorente explained.

The professor trusts the data that the new technology will offer, “but the results will not be forced”, Since it is not certain that DNA can be obtained from all bones in sufficient quantity and quality to reach definitive conclusions.

Research in Europe and America

In addition to the UGR, scientists from the University of Florence (Italy) and the University of North Texas (USA) will work independently with some samples and then compare the data. The University of Rome Tor Vergata and the Distribuidora Comercial Zogbi of Mexico also participate from time to time, with experience in bone analysis in that country.

According to its promoters, it is the most ambitious scientific research on the origin of Columbus, which compiles the work developed by the different theses that have emerged so far and which, in some cases, provide genetic material related to the navigator. Defenders of the various theories have also come to the UGR to explain them.

Eight theories about the origin of Columbus

1. Mallorcan theory (Gabriel Verd Martorell)

Columbus was the secret son of the Prince of Viana

The theory of the Mallorcan origin of Christopher Columbus has not been documented documentary evidence until the last century in which different historians have tried to show that the discoverer was the natural son of Don Carlos, Prince of Viana (brother of King Fernando the Catholic) and from the Mallorcan Margalida Colom. He was born in Felanitx, Mallorca in 1460. This thesis has been defended by historians such as the Sevillian Manuel Lópéz Flores, the Venezuelan Brother Nectario Maria and Torcuato Luca de Tena.

Columbus, during his third trip to the New World, baptized Margarita Island off the coast of Venezuela in 1498 with his mother’s name and wrote it in Mallorcan Margalida. The great Spanish philologist Ramón Menéndez Pidal has shown that Columbus “always wrote in Latin or Spanish, never in Italian or Genoese, and Italianisms never appear in his writings.”

In April 1492, an important document of incalculable historical value was signed in Santa Fe de Granada, known as the Capitulations of Santa Fe and in which all the conditions established between the Discoverer and the Crown were stipulated, by means of which it would be carried out. carried out the discovery enterprise. In this document Columbus is named Admiral, Viceroy and Governor General. He is also granted the Title of “Don”, which as Professor Juan Manzano tells in one of his publications, “was an honorary and dignified title used by kings and members of their family.”

The position of Viceroy and Governor General appear at the time of the discovery in the Crown of Aragon and not in the Castilian one. They are positions of high social rank and even that of Governor General was reserved for people of royal blood. Another important fact to highlight is that Columbus enjoyed an extraordinary culture for his time. All these data, along with others, defend the hypothesis that the discoverer could not be the Genoese Cristoforo Colombo, cloth weaver and innkeeper.

2. Valencian theory (Francesc Albardaner i Llorens)

Dual Columbus: Citizen of Valencia and Genoese of Nation

The origin of Cristóbal Colom would be in Valencia in the bosom of a family of converted Jews, whose trade was that of silk weavers, to which his mother belonged. His father was an emigrant from Liguria who arrived in Valencia with the Gavoto clan of Savona, who created silk and brocade weaving companies and paper mills in Valencia, from the year 1445 or shortly before. Marriage can be considered intra-union, a common occurrence at that time.

Because he was the son of a mixed marriage, he could present himself as a “Genoese of the nation”, because he had a Genoese father, or as a natural subject of the Crown of Aragon, because he was a citizen of the Kingdom of Valencia. Cristóbal Colom also had a dual education: Christian in the public sphere and Jewish in the family cloister. He was actually a crypto-Jew who was not interested in making known his Hebraic origins in the difficult moments of the imposition of the Castilian inquisition in all the territories of the Crown of Aragon. His Sephardic Jewish origin was one of the main reasons that forced him not to spread his origin.

3. Galician theory (Eduardo Esteban Meruéndano)

Columbus was of Galician origin

The possible Galician origin of Cristóbal Colón was postulated in 1898 as the first refutation of the Genoese origin, by Celso García de la Riega from Pontevedra. Documents, toponymy and language were the fundamental basis of the support of a known theory, followed and disseminated by historians (Enrique Zas Simó, Constantino de Horta and Pardo), pedagogues (Virgilio Hueso Moreno, Ramón Marcote Miñarzo, Nicolás Espinosa Cordero) , academics (Wenceslao Fernández Flórez, Emilia Pardo Bazán) or cultural figures (Ramón María del Valle – Inclán, Torcuato Luca de Tena and Álvarez Ossorio), among many others.

In 1928, this thesis was silenced by political pressure due to the imminent celebration of the Ibero-American Exposition in Seville. The recent legitimation of the historical documents by the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain (2013), which contain the surnames “Colón” and “de Colón”, as well as the Capitulations of Santa Fe, could place the family of the navigator in Pontevedra , before and during the Discovery.

4. Castilian theory (Alfonso C. Sanz Núñez)

Columbus was Castilian, from Guadalajara

This thesis affirms that Christopher Columbus was born in Espinosa de Henares (Guadalajara) on June 18, 1435. He was the grandson of Don Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, admiral of Castile. It was his mother, Mrs. Aldonza de Mendoza, Duchess of Arjona. She died of a double birth. In the will of this lady, made two days before her death, appears Cristóbal Genovés, to whom she leaves 13,000 maravedíes.

The admiral’s twin brother, Alfón el Doncel, was assassinated when he was five years old. His uncle, the Marquis of Santillana, usurped his inheritance. The kings granted him with the same prerogatives that the Admiral of Castile had the title of Admiral of the Ocean Sea before the Discovery, because it corresponded to him by lineage. The emblems of his grandfather and mother appear on the coat of arms of Columbus.

5. Navarre theory (José Mari Ercilla)

Columbus transferred the toponym of Ainza to America

The discoverer of America was born in Lower Navarra and carried the HLA-B27 antigen, characteristic of the exhausts. All the important characters in the life of Columbus have a strong link with Navarra and a large part of their vocabulary coincides with that of the ultra-ports area. The place name Ainza, was the name of the town of Lower Navarra in which Christopher Columbus was born (currently Ainhice Mongelos).

This name has not existed in another part of the world other than in America and after the discovery of this by Columbus. A name that only someone born there could know because the Colom, according to the Navarrese royal census, inhabited this town with only five houses.

6. Portuguese theory I (Fernando Branco)

Columbus was actually a Portuguese privateer

Christopher Columbus was actually called Pedro Ataíde and he was a Portuguese privateer. There are numerous coincidences between the life of the admiral and that of Ataíde, both have even participated in the war of Aragon and the naval battle of Cabo de San Vicente. What is known of Pedro Ataíde justifies, as happened with Columbus, his flight to Castile in 1485, his connections with the Portuguese nobility in Seville and the text of the letter that Don Juan II sent him. It would also justify, upon returning from the first trip, its recognition by João da Castanheira on the island of Santa María and the visit to the Queen of Portugal in the convent of Castanheira.

In 2017, the group of researchers from the University of Coimbra and the Lisbon Higher Technical Institute exhumed the skeletal remains of Pedro Ataíde’s paternal cousin. The bones of Antonio de Athayde, first count of Castanheira and cousin of the Portuguese privateer, were exhumed from the church where he was buried, near Lisbon, in order to extract the nuclear DNA.

7. Portuguese theory II (José Mattos e Silva and Antonio Mattos e Silva)

Columbus, bastard son of the princess of Portugal

The famous navigator was the bastard son of Princess Leonor de Aviz and Don Joao Menezes da Silva, just in the period of negotiations for the future marriage of the princess with Emperor Frederick III, so he could not be considered the son of the princess and was adopted by one of her servants. Both researchers provide genetic samples from the supposed paternal and maternal branch.

8. Portuguese theory III (Carlos Evaristo)

Columbus, royal bastard and spy in the service of the King of Portugal

Cristóvão Colom would not be Genoese, but could be a bastard son of Don Fernando, Duke of Beja and Viseu, and of Isabel Gonçalves Zarco, with Jewish and Genoese ancestry. His name would be Salvador Fernandes Zarco and he would be originally from Cuba, Alentejo. Colom would be a war captain, a spy like 007, with a license to kill, in the service of King John II of Portugal.

The mission of this supposed brother of King Manuel I was to divert the attention of the Catholic Monarchs from the true route to India, offering them an alternative route. This deception allowed Portugal to negotiate a new treaty to stay with India and with possession of the lands of Brazil and Canada that had already been discovered.

In addition to the study of the tombs of the Duke of Beja and his sisters, all strangely empty, a lead urn has been identified with the remains of Prince Miguel da Paz, son of Don Manuel I in the Crypt of the Royal Chapel of Granada at the waiting for authorization to open it. Other insignificant relics linked to the Portuguese Royal House were also secured that would serve as main DNA samples to finally allow to confirm or not this which is the theory of the oldest Portuguese Columbus.

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