DNA Verifies Columbus' Remains in Spain
In 1506, at the age of 55, the explorer
Christopher Columbus died in in the
northwestern Spanish city of Valladolid.
But death was not the end of his
adventures - his body continued to travel
in a centuries-long shell game. Keep your
eyes on the body:

Immediately after his death, Columbus
was buried in Valladolid. Then in 1509, on
the wishes of his son Diego, the body
was moved to the Monasterio de la
Cartuja, a monastery on a river island near
Seville that can still be visited today.
Christopher Columbus (Italian: Cristoforo
Colombo; Spanish: Cristóbal Colón; Portuguese:
Cristóvão Colombo; born between 31 October
1450 and 30 October 1451, died 20 May 1506)
was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer,
citizen of the Republic of Genoa. Under the
auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he
completed four voyages across the Atlantic
Ocean. Those voyages, and his efforts to
establish permanent settlements on the island of
Hispaniola, initiated the Spanish colonization of
the New World.

In the context of emerging western imperialism
and economic competition between European
Quiz #464 Results
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Answers to Quiz #464- February 2, 2015
1. Who is buried in this tomb?  Where is it?
2. Where was he buried before this?
3. How do they know the person buried there is really who he is believed to be?
TinEye Alert
You can find this photo on,
but the quiz will be a lot more fun if you solve the puzzle on your own.
Comments from Our Readers
This one I know from personal experience. I have a photo of the tomb which I
took on a visit to Seville in 2003. The DNA study had not been completed at that
time, but our tour guide related the story of the controversy about his actual burial
places. Several places claim to have his remains. One theory is that his bones may
have been divided and that he actually is buried at more than one site.
Ellen Welker
It did call my attention that the picture looked extremely old and nothing similar had
appeared on searches, now we know why. I'd like to know how you got ahold of it.
Also wonder why there's no Wikipedia page in English Floyd such an intriguing
story. Columbus's character nowadays is a total paradox, he seems to be way more
known and important in Latin America than in the US, yet we've never called
October 12th "Columbus Day" but"race day"or "America's Discovery Day" (when I
was a kid).
Ida Sanchez
The figures looked like they were wearing crowns, so I started by image-googling
"royal reburial tomb" to no avail.  From somewhere in my subconscious
the word "catafalque" bubbled up, and adding that to the query in place of "tomb"
resulted in finding the place in question.


I never found your specific photo (which is apparently copied or scanned from a
half-tone illustration in a book or magazine).
Collier Smith
Stumbled on this answer accidentally; googled "tomb casket held by 4 statues" [not
at ALL the correct description] and it showed up as a photo essay at a site
called "Big Think".
Karens Petrus
Apparently from the article there is still some doubt as to whether he is really buried
in this tomb, as there was a box discovered in the Dominican with an inscription of
"Don Colon". Interesting history that I never knew anything about.

I eventually googled "catafalque tomb", which led to the page, which contains an image of
"Columbus" tomb" and a very brief description. The image looked like it
matched, so googling "Columbus tomb" led me to the URL above, which contains
some better resolution photos of the place.

Apparently the Seville Cathedral is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, image of
the outside here:
a quiz from no real textual clues in the photo.
Roger Lipsett
Very interesting quiz, as usual, Fearless Leader.

I found this link - with information
about the illness and death of Christopher Columbus. This makes me think about
what you have written about the health issues of Abraham Lincoln. Any DNA
available for Christopher Columbus?
Grace Hertz and Mary Turner
The Fabulous Fletchers
I noticed the difference in backgrounds also, but the picture was so grainy I
attributed it to that.
Ellen Welker
I think [Carol Stansell] is right too! I was flip flopping between Havana and Spain
regarding the photo, and finally settled on Spain and didn't give it a second thought
after that. I was confused but figured it was just me. Seems like my natural state
these days. LOL

Don't worry, I won't fire you [formissing last week's quiz]......never been good at
firing people plus you don't deserve it! You do a great job and I love your quizzes.
;)  I really don't know how you find the time to do this every week with everything
else you've got on your docket.

Congratulations on your  upcoming 10th Quiz-Anniversary!!  
Cindy Costigan
Search for "tomb with four pallbearers" was sufficient to identify who it was.
Peter Norton

Congratulations to Our Winners

Ida Sanchez                Roger Lipsett
Collier Smith                Ellen Welker
Audrey Nicholson                Ben Hollister
Karen Petrus                Judy Pfaff                Tynan Peterson
Debbie Was                Carol Stansell
Tom Collins                Cindy Costigan
Rebecca Bare                Peter Norton
Milene Rawlinson                Arthur Hartwell
Rebecca Bare                Margaret Paxton
Gary Elder                Janice M. Sellers                Jim Kiser

Grace Hertz and Mary Turner
The Fabulous Fletchers!
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Christopher Columbus
b October 31, 1450 - October 30, 1451
d. May 20, 1506
1.  Christopher Columbus.  He is buried in Seville, Spain.
However, the tomb pictured is a rare photograph taken
when it was still located in Havana, Cuba.
2.  His remains have been moved several times: from Valladolid, Spain,
to the Monastery of Cartuja, to Santo Domingo, to Havana to Seville, Spain.
3.  The mitochondrial DNA of the remains were matched to
that of Diego Columbus, Christopher's brother.
MADRID, Spain — Spanish researchers
said Friday that they have resolved a century-
old mystery surrounding Christopher
Columbus's burial place, which both Spain
and the Dominican Republic claim to be
watching over. Their verdict: Spain's got the
right bones.
A forensic team led by Spanish geneticist
Jose Antonio Lorente compared DNA from
bone fragments that Spain says are from the
explorer — and are buried in a cathedral in
with DNA extracted from reains
known to be from Columbus' brother Diego,
who is also buried in the southern Spanish
kingdoms through the establishment of trade routes and colonies, Columbus' proposal
to reach the East Indies by sailing westward, eventually received the support of the
Spanish Crown, which saw in it a chance to enter the spice trade with Asia through a
new westward route. During his first voyage in 1492, instead of reaching Japan as he
had intended, Columbus landed in a New World, landing in the Bahamas archipelago, on
an island he named San Salvador. Over the course of three more voyages, Columbus
visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and
Central America, claiming them for the Spanish Empire.

Though Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the Americas (having
been preceded by the Norse expedition led by Leif Ericson in the 11th century), his
voyages led to the first lasting European contact with the Americas, inaugurating a
period of European exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted for several
centuries. They had, therefore, an enormous impact in the historical development of the
modern Western world. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the
light of spreading the Christian religion.

Just inside the Cathedral
door of Seville’s massive
cathedral stands a
monument to Christopher
Columbus. His tomb is held
aloft by four allegorical
figures representing the four
kingdoms of Spain during
Columbus’ life, Castille,
Aragon, Navara and Leon.

The tomb was one of the
First Voyage
Faro a Colon Interior
Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic
Sceond Voyage
Third Voyage
Fourth Voyage
Remark from the Quizmaster General
Most of our readers responded that Christopher Columbus is buried in Seville.  While
this is true, the photo of his catafalque is a rare version taken in Havana before his
remains were removed, with the catafalque, to Spain. The background structure in the
quiz photo (left) differs from a more recent version of the tomb (right).

High marks to Carol Stansell, Tynan Peterson, Grace Hertz and others who noticed this.
The final resting place of Christopher Columbus - or possibly someone else
Faro a Colon Exterior
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Meanwhile, Diego headed back to the Dominican Republic to begin construction of a
cathedral to hold his father's remains, in accordance with his final wishes.

Unfortunately, Diego died in 1526 before he could make that happen, and he was, in
turn, interred in Seville next to his father. Both Columbuses stayed there for another 16
years, but when the Cathedral of Santa Maria (Catedral de Primada de America) was
completed in the Dominican Republic, Diego's widow Maria de Rojas y Toledo, put the
wheels in motion to have both bodies moved there. In 1542 the remains sailed the ocean
blue again, and joined the body of Christopher's brother, Bartholomew, who had died in
Santo Domingo the year before.

There they remained for more than 250 years, but when Spain ceded Hispanola (a region
encompassing the Dominican Republic and Haiti) to
France in 1795, they took the explorer's body with them
to the other Spanish stronghold in the Caribbean: Havana,

Back in the Dominican Republic, nearly a century later in
1877, a construction worker working on the cathedral
renovation uncovered a lead box - unimpressive, save for
the inscription on the inside of the lid: "The illustrious and
excellent man, Don Colon, Admiral of the Ocean Sea."

At first pass, it seemed obvious that the Spanish must
have, in their haste, taken the wrong box. But there's a
catch - both father, Christopher, and son, Diego, were
known as "Don Colon" in their lifetimes, and both held
the same title "Admiral of the Ocean Sea".

By 1898, when the Spanish were pushed out of Cuba by
the Americans during the Spanish American War, both
the Spaniards and Dominicans had decided firmly that the remains in their own
possession were the authentic item, and that the other must be holding onto the son.
Therefore, in Seville an elaborate cathedral tomb was prepared for the explorer's return
to his homeland, while in his adopted home another "official" tomb was planned.

It took the Dominicans somewhat longer to get their design act together. It was not
until 1931 that a design competition was held, won by a Scottish architect who
proposed the 688 foot long cruciform memorial complex that now stands. The building
was barely ready by the 1992 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival, when the
remains were finally interred.

In 2003, the controversy was tackled by DNA science, and the remains in Seville tested
against known remains of Columbus' brother Diego and son Fernando. Although
promising, the results were not conclusive.

There has been some clarification in recent years, however, thanks to advances in DNA
testing. In 2006, according to the
Associated Press, Spanish researchers
took DNA from bones in Seville that are
purported to be Columbus’s and
compared it with DNA from the bones
known to be those of his brother, Diego,
also located in Seville. The samples turned
out to be a match, though  researchers
pointed out that this strong evidence does
not completely rule out the possibility of
the bones in Santo Domingo also
belonging to the explorer.

Equally murky is the matter of Columbus’
s nationality. Theories vary as to whether
Columbus' Cafalque
Seville Cathedral
the voyager was Italian, Spanish, French, Polish, Portuguese… the list goes on.
Another 2006 study, carried out by some of the same geneticists who looked into
Columbus’s death, sought to use DNA once more to solve this second mystery. The
bulk of historical evidence points to Columbus being either Spanish or Italian, so the
researchers started there. Since the name Columbus is actually “Colon” in Spanish and
“Colombo” in Italian, they gathered DNA samples from hundreds of men with these last
names – because both their surnames and their Y chromosomes would be passed down
from their fathers.

Unfortunately, the results were inconclusive. But another researcher, this time an
American linguistics professor, took on the task of examining Columbus’s origins using
a completely different approach. Estelle Irizarry scrutinized the man’s writings -- in
letters and other documents -- in an attempt to figure out what his native language truly
was. Her assessment was that although Columbus wrote in Spanish (the majority
Spanish dialect), it was not his first language. Instead, she believes his grammar and
sentence construction indicate that Catalan was his native language, and he would have
been from what was then the Kingdom of Aragon in northeastern Spain.

Still, Italians who believe they share
heritage with Columbus would argue that
language does not tell the whole tale.
Indeed, even with a mix of historic,
scientific and linguistic research, the story
of the explorer’s personal geography may
never find completion. It is an unsolved
puzzle that adds even more intrigue to an
already controversial figure in history,
inspiring travellers to delve deeper into his
life in both Europe and the Americas.
Ceiling of the Seville Cathedral
Columbus' Four Voyages
Following his first voyage, Columbus was
appointed Viceroy and Governor of the
Indies under the terms of the
Capitulations of Santa Fe. In practice, this
primarily entailed the administration of the
colonies in the island of Hispaniola, whose
capital was established in Santo Domingo.

By the end of his third voyage, Columbus
was physically and mentally exhausted:
his body was wracked by arthritis and his
eyes by ophthalmia. In October 1499, he
sent two ships to Spain, asking the Court
of Spain to appoint a royal commissioner
to help him govern.
Never admitting that he had reached a
continent previously unknown to
Europeans, rather than the East Indies he
had set out for, Columbus called the
inhabitants of the lands he visited indios
(Spanish for "Indians"). Columbus'
strained relationship with the Spanish
crown and its appointed colonial
administrators in America led to his arrest
and dismissal as governor of the
settlements on the island of Hispaniola in
1500, and later to protracted litigation
12 October 1492 – Christopher
Columbus discovers The Americas for
Spain, painting by John Vanderlyn.
over the benefits which Columbus and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the

Four Voyages to the New World

Between 1492 and 1503, Columbus completed four round-trip voyages between Spain
and the Americas, all of them under the sponsorship of the Crown of Castile. These
voyages marked the beginning of the European exploration and colonization of the
American continents, and are thus of enormous significance in Western history.

Columbus always insisted, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, that the
lands that he visited during those voyages were part of the Asian continent, as
previously described by Marco Polo and other European travelers. Columbus' refusal to
accept that the lands he had visited and claimed for Spain were not part of Asia might
explain, in part, why the American continent was named after the Florentine explorer
Amerigo Vespucci and not after Columbus
The return of Christopher Columbus;
his audience before King Ferdinand and
Queen Isabella. Painting by Eugène
By this time, accusations of tyranny and incompetence on the part of Columbus had
also reached the Court. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand responded by removing
Columbus from power and replacing him with Francisco de Bobadilla, a member of the
Order of Calatrava.

In his later years, Columbus demanded that the Spanish Crown give him 10% of all
profits made in the new lands, as stipulated in the Capitulations of Santa Fe. Because he
had been relieved of his duties as governor, the crown did not feel bound by that
contract and his demands were rejected. After his death, his heirs sued the Crown for a
part of the profits from trade with America, as well as other rewards. This led to a
protracted series of legal disputes known as the pleitos colombinos ("Columbian

Illness and death

During a violent storm on his first return voyage, Columbus, then approximately 41,
suffered an attack of what was believed at the time to be gout. In subsequent years, he
was plagued with what was thought to be influenza and other fevers, bleeding from the
eyes, and prolonged attacks of gout. The suspected attacks increased in duration and
severity, sometimes leaving Columbus bedridden for months at
Later Years
a time, and culminated in his death fourteen years later.

Based on Columbus' lifestyle and the described symptoms,
modern doctors suspect that he suffered from Reiter's
syndrome, rather than gout. Reiter's syndrome is a common
presentation of reactive arthritis, a joint inflammation caused
by intestinal bacterial infections or after acquiring certain
sexually transmitted diseases (primarily chlamydia or
gonorrhea). Reiter's syndrome has been described as a
precursor of other joint conditions, to include Ankylosing
Spondylitis. "It seems likely that [Columbus] acquired reactive
arthritis from food poisoning on one of his ocean voyages
because of poor sanitation and improper food preparation,"
writes Dr. Frank C. Arnett, a rheumatologist and professor of
internal medicine, pathology and laboratory medicine the
University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
Replica of the Santa
María, Columbus'
flagship during his
first voyage, at his
Valladolid house.

"There is absolute matchup between the mitochondrial DNA we have
studied from Columbus' brother and Christopher Columbus," said
Marcial Castro, a Seville-area historian and high school teacher who is
the mastermind behind the project, which began in 2002. Mitochondria
are cell components rich in DNA.

He spoke a day before the 500th anniversary Saturday of Columbus'
death in the northern Spanish city of Valladolid.

Castro and his research colleagues have been trying in vain for years to
convince the Dominican Republic to open up an ornate lighthouse
monument in the capital, Santo Domingo, that the Dominicans say holds
the remains of the explorer.

Dominicans dismiss findings

Juan Bautista Mieses, the director of the Columbus Lighthouse — a
cross-shaped building several blocks long — dismissed the researchers'
findings and insisted Friday that Columbus was indeed buried in the
Dominican Republic.

"The remains have never left Dominican territory," Bautista said.

The goal of opening the lighthouse tomb was to compare those remains
to the ones from Diego in Seville and determine which country had
buried the man who arrived in the New World in 1492, landing at the
island of Hispaniola, which today comprises the Dominican Republic and

Castro stressed in an interview that, although his team is convinced the
bones in Seville are from Columbus, this 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 right body. "We don't know what is in there,"
Castro said.
Castro said that in light of the DNA evidence from Spain, the objective
of opening the Santo Domingo tomb would be to determine who, if not
Columbus, is buried there. "Now, studying the remains in the Dominican
Republic is more necessary and exciting than ever," he said.

However, Bautista said he would not allow the remains to be tested. “We
Christians believe that one does not bother the dead,” he said.

A little history

Columbus died and was buried in Valladolid on May 20, 1506. He had
asked to be buried in the Americas, but no church of sufficient stature
existed there.

Three years later, his remains were moved to a monastery on La Cartuja,
a river island next to Seville. In 1537, Maria de Rojas y Toledo, widow
of one of Columbus' sons, Diego, sent the bones of her husband and his
father to the cathedral in Santo Domingo for burial.

There they lay until 1795, when Spain ceded Hispaniola to France and
decided Columbus' remains should not fall into the hands of foreigners.
A set of remains that the Spaniards believed were Columbus' was first
shipped to Havana, Cuba, and then back to Seville when the Spanish-
American War broke out in 1898.

In 1877, however, workers digging in the Santo Domingo cathedral
unearthed a leaden box containing bones and bearing the inscription,
"Illustrious and distinguished male, don Cristobal Colon." That's the
Spanish way of saying Christopher Columbus.

The Dominicans say that these were the genuine remains and that the
Spaniards took the wrong body back in 1795.

Another mystery awaits

Lorente is the director of the Laboratory of Genetic Identification at the
University of Granada. He usually works on criminal cases but has also
helped identify people killed under military regimes in Latin America. His
lab works regularly with the FBI.

Castro says the team is now focusing their DNA tools on another
Columbus mystery: his country of origin. Traditional theory says he was
from Genoa, Italy, but another line of argument says Columbus was
actually from the Catalonia region of northeast Spain.

One piece of evidence supporting this latter idea is that when Columbus
wrote back from the New World in Spanish — not Italian — he used
words and phrases that reflected influence from the Catalan language,
Castro said.

The new team has now collected DNA samples from more than 350
men in Catalonia whose last name is Colom — the Catalan way of saying
Columbus — and from 80 in Italy whose last name is Colombo. The
material is obtained by wiping the underside of their tongues with a
cotton swab.

Checking the Y chromosome

The idea is to compare the genetic material with DNA from another
authenticated Columbus relative, his son Hernando, who is buried in
Seville. In this case, the analysis focuses on another kind of DNA:
genetic markers from the Y chromosome, which men receive only from
their fathers.

DNA from Y chromosomes is much more scarce than the mitochondrial
kind and deteriorates more rapidly. The team is using Hernando's
because that of his purported father is in bad shape.

Lorente and company want to see if the DNA pattern in Columbus' Y
chromosome still shows up in men in either Catalonia or Italy, which
would suggest he is from one place or the other, Castro said. It is not
known when the results of this second study will be available, because
the data from Italy is still scant.

"The people whose last name is Colombo are cooperating less than the
Coloms in Spain," he said.
Columbus' coat of arms,
as depicted in his Book of
Privileges (1502)

How Ida Solved the Puzzle

Several searches with tomb, display, moved, museum and all those
combos did not give me any answers, kept sending me to Ben Stiller's
movie, the terracota warriors and King Tut's.

So, I decided to use the fact that it was held by 4 men, but not
remembering the word 'coffin' in English (it happens), I switched to
Spanish. First search '4 monks are holding the coffin' - didn't give
anything, but then I typed 'el fretro lo sostienen 4' (the coffin is held by 4)
and that immediately gave me the Spanish wikipedia page for the tomb
(non existent in English). That provided answers 1 and 2. Switching back
to English, I googled 'Christopher Columbus tomb authentication' and
several articles about the DNA tests performed appeared.

Ida Sanchez

Tomb of Christopher Columbus
The final resting place of the great navigator, or maybe his son
last additions to the cathedral, installed in 1899. It was designed by the
sculptor Arturo Melida, and was originally installed in Havana before being
moved to Seville after Spain lost control of Cuba.

Columbus’ body began its final rest in Valladolid, Spain where he died in
1506, and was moved shortly thereafter to Seville, by orders of his son,
Diego. In 1542, the remains were again moved, this time to Colonial Santo
Domingo, in what is now the Dominican Republic, where they were
installed in the newly completed Cathedral of Santa Maria. There they
remained for a couple of centuries.

Then, in 1795 when Spain lost control of the Dominican Republic, they
were moved again to Havana, Cuba. 100 years later, they made their final
voyage back home to Seville, and placed in the cathedral where you can
visit him today.

Unfortunately, after all that effort, in 1877 a very suspicious box was
discovered back in Santo Domingo inscribed with the words "The
illustrious and excellent man, Don Colon, Admiral of the Ocean Sea.”

That box is now contained in the massive “Faro a Colon” Lighthouse in
Santo Domingo. Despite examinations and a recent DNA test of the
remains in Seville, the question remains somewhat unsolved, or
completely resolved, depending on whom you ask.

Seville Cathedral was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in