By Humphrey Carter
THIS May will be the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's death but still no one knows whether he was Italian, Catalan or even from the Balearics. In order to mark the anniversary, another research project to establish where the great explorer came from got underway this week and is going to involve the DNA testing of possibly thousands of Spaniards whose surname is Colon, Castellano for Columbus or Colom its Catalan equivalent.
300 people sharing the surname have already agreed to take part in the project - 180 in Majorca and Valencia - but there are apparently around 2'000 Coloms on the electoral roles across Spain. However, researchers at Granada University are determined to preserve and try to resolve the mystery of Columbus's origins once and for all.
Most people accept that the sailor was born in Genoa, Italy.
But there are other claims that he was born in north east Spain or here in Majorca, while there have also been claims that he was born in Ibiza.
The alleged home of Columbus was recently sold near Porto Colom in South East Majorca for a million pounds.
If it transpires that the property really was once his home, whoever purchased the property will have made a sound investment although they could face having to open it to the public. The DNA samples are going to be taken in the form of saliva. Investigators are going to then compare the results with the DNA from the bones of Columbus and members of his family who were buried in Seville Cathedral. The very same investigators who studied the bones and can more or less confirm that Columbus's body was amongst the remains are carrying out the DNA tests. Buried with Colombus was one of his sons, Hernando, and his DNA showed traces of a Y chromosome (the only one that males inherit by the paternal line) and this is the chromosome researchers will be looking for as they travel Spain testing possible relatives and trying to trace where Columbus's family came from. Some of the many theories include claims that Columbus, who discovered America in 1492, was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1491.
However, there are historians who claim that many of the places the mariner named in the Caribbean and Central America can be linked directly to Ibiza. Others maintain that Columbus was a Catalan nobleman who, due to circumstance, acted for the French.
But much of the explorer's writings were apparently in a language very similar to Catalan, as opposed to Italian, hence the Catalan theory continues to hold water. What is more, some claim he was born on an island in the river Ebro in Catalunya.
What we do know, however, is that on May 20, 1606, he died in Valladolid and by May 20, 2006, researchers at Granada University and its Laboratory of Genetic Identification hope to be able to finally confirm where he was born.


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