Would you like to solve a genealogy puzzle that is more than 500 years old? Spanish scholars are on a mission to demystify Christopher Columbus's life, long shrouded in a veil of mythic heroism. They are using a combination of 500+-year-old documents and modern DNA testing.
Was Columbus a Genovese nobleman or Catalan pirate? Adventurous explorer or greedy tyrant? What if the Italian gentleman who discovered America was, as some suggest, a brutal torturer and slave owner? Today he might be tried as a war criminal for mercilessly torturing his captives. And what if he wasn't even Italian?
Many theories of Christopher Columbus' origins exist, but none have yet been proved. Some suggest that Columbus was a Catalan nobleman who rebelled against King Ferdinand's father, King John II, by engaging in piracy on behalf of the French, and then hid his origins to win favor with the son. Others maintain that he was the illegitimate child of Prince Carlos de Viana, a Majorcan nobleman related to Ferdinand and Isabella. Still others suggest that Columbus was a Jew whose family fled to Genoa to escape persecution.
Schoolchildren may learn about a daring hero who proved the Earth wasn't flat; however, because his biography is pocked with holes, Christopher Columbus is a figure around whom elaborate theories and enigmatic rumors have long circulated. This year, the 500th anniversary of his death, two Spanish scholars are working to clear up some of the mysteries.
José Antonio Lorente, a geneticist at the University of Granada, is using modern DNA methods in an attempt to resolve one of the greatest enigmas: the question of Columbus's origins.
You can read more about this story at http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1017/p05s01-woeu.html?s=hns