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Spanish DNA team seeks roots of Columbus

Where did Christopher Columbus come from? The question has puzzled historians for centuries - and now a massive international DNA search is trying to unravel the answer.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2006 08:38 IST

Where did Christopher Columbus come from? The question has puzzled historians for centuries - and now a massive international DNA search is trying to unravel the answer.

With four months to go until the 500th anniversary of the death of the great explorer, a team of Spanish scientists is hoping that samples of DNA from his known or presumed descendants in France, Italy and Spain will yield a clue.

Most historians say Columbus came from Genoa, but experts have made a case for the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia, Corsica, Portugal, France and even England.

"We are trying to piece together a genetic map of the Columbus family in several areas of the Mediterranean where various theories have it Christopher Columbus was born," says Jose Antonio Lorente from the University of Grenada.

"Eventually, we will be able to see which region the DNA Y-chromosome of Columbus has most affinity with, and where probably we can surmise he originated," says Lorente, an expert in the identification of DNA samples.

More than 120 people with the family name Colom - the Catalan derivative - gave a saliva sample. In the French region of Perpignan just over the border, 18 people with similar names such as Colomb or Coulom also did the test.

In Italy, samples will be taken from people with the family name Colombo. The samples will be compared with those of the explorer's elder son, Hernando, whose remains lie in Seville Cathedral.

Lorente hopes to publish results in time to mark the 500th anniversary of Columbus's death in the Spanish city of Valladolid on May 20, 1506.

First Published: Jan 22, 2006 08:38 IST