New Television Show Researches the Biography of Christopher Columbus
by Steve Johnson
July 29, 2004
On August 1, 2004, the Discovery Channel will broadcast a new television
documentary that studies the genealogy and biography of famed explorer
The show entitled, "Christopher Columbus: Secrets From
The Grave", uses scientific examination to answer the mystery
surrounding his birth, life and his death. Was he Genoese Italian,
or Catalan Spanish? Was he a Sephardic Jew avoiding the Spanish
The "Italian Christopher Columbus"
painted by Tim Eger
The "Jewish Christopher Columbus"
painted by Frank Ordaz
The "Spanish Christopher Columbus"
painted by Mike Benny
Common belief has its that Christopher Columbus was the son of
a Genoese weaver who grew up and discovered America. But the makers
of the documentary asked the question, "But what if that story
was wrong?" Original records of Columbus' birth and childhood
have been destroyed and his writings deliberately obscure the truth,
leading historians to theorize that he was hiding something. Now,
new scientific evidence is challenging the traditional biography
of Columbus -- where he was born, where his remains rest, and the
identity of his parents.
A press release issued by the show's producers says:
"Where was Columbus really from? Why did he keep his origins
shrouded in mystery? Was he really Italian? Could he have been
a pirate, a Jew fleeing from the Inquisition, or the illegitimate
son of a Spanish aristocrat? Now, using cutting-edge technology,
one historian and a team of scientists are mounting a new effort
to unmask the admiral's true identity, and the fate of his remains.
Historical, lexicographic and anthropological testing may support
the theory that Columbus was not from Genoa Italy, and that he
could have been born in Catalonia, Spain. To attempt to answer
these intriguing questions, COLUMBUS: SECRETS FROM THE GRAVE travels
to Seville, where reporters and citizens descend on the Cathedral
to watch as Anunciada Colon, a direct descendent of Columbus,
hands over the keys to the chest that is reported to hold his
Columbus' remains, along with those of his brother Diego and
son Hernando, are exhumed for a series of complex DNA tests. This
first-ever testing of his remains has galvanized the Spanish people,
who believe that Christopher Columbus was Spanish, and antagonized
some Italians who have for centuries claimed Columbus as their
own with great pride.
In this special, Professor Charles Merrill, who has studied Columbus
for years, and a group of scientists use different methods to
shed some light on Columbus' past. To test his nationality and
his level of education, experts analyze Columbus' writings to
reveal that he never used Italian, even in casual correspondence,
and that he was actually very well rducated. This indicates claims
that Columbus was the son of a modest Genoese weaver might have
been made from whole cloth.
Like the mystery of his life, the fate of his remains is also
shrouded in mystery. The Spanish claim to have his remains, but
so does the Dominican Republic. His bones were moved so many times
they may have been inadvertently misplaced along the way. To confirm
which, if any of the remains in question actually belonged to
Christopher Columbus, Spanish scientist Dr. Antonio Lorente of
the University of Granada attempts to match the most likely set
of remains to the known remains of Columbus' brother Diego and
son Hernando. Once the results prove a genetic link, the remains
will be tested to add evidence to theories about his heritage."