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HISTORY

Spain locates Christopher Columbus’ first tomb

Researchers said Thursday they have located the first tomb of Christopher Columbus, the 15th century navigator who began European incursions into the Americas, in the central Spanish city of Valladolid.

Spain locates Christopher Columbus' first tomb
The Christopher Colombus monument in Barcelona. Historians and archeologists have since recreated in 3D the dimensions the chapel in Valladolid that first housed the remains of Columbus. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

It has long been known that Columbus was buried in Valladolid after his death there in 1506 but the exact location of his tomb was not known until now.

Three years later his remains were taken to his family mausoleum in the southern city of Seville, and were moved several more times over the following centuries before returning to Seville in 1898.

Using DNA samples from bone slivers taken from the Seville tomb, a forensics team led by the University of Granada confirmed in 2005 that the remains kept there did in fact belong to Columbus.

Researchers have now determined that he was first buried in the San Francisco convent in Valladolid which no longer exists, Spain’s Naval Museum, which helped coordinate the study, said in statement.

The site is currently a commercial zone near the spacious Plaza Mayor, a broad, pedestrianised expanse surrounded by arcaded buildings painted red.

Columbus’ first resting place is close to Valladolid’s Plaza Mayor, researchers say. Photo: Fernando Santander/Unsplash

This conclusion follows “a detailed historical investigation, confirmed by ground-penetrating radars,” the statement added.

Researchers took samples of elements from the Seville burial sport — lead, brick, golden threads — and found they matched with the location of the spot in Valladolid which was excavated, it added.

Historians and archeologists have since recreated in 3D the dimensions the chapel in Valladolid that housed the remains of Columbus.

In 1544 his remains were moved from Seville to Santo Domingo, which is the capital of the Dominican Republic, in accordance with the instructions he had left behind.

A tourist takes a picture of the tomb of Christopher Columbus in Seville’s cathedral. His tomb is held aloft by four allegorical figures representing the four kingdoms of Spain during Columbus’ life, Castille, Aragón, Navarra and León. (Photo by BORIS HORVAT / AFP)

In 1795 his bones were moved to Havana before being shipped back across the Atlantic and returned to Seville in 1898.

The Dominican Republic claims Columbus is buried at an ornate lighthouse in Santo Domingo.

The teams behind the 2005 DNA study said that while they are convinced the bones in Seville are from Columbus, the tomb in Santo Domingo might also hold part of his remains.

Columbus, long hailed by school textbooks as the so-called discoverer of “The New World,” is considered by many to have spurred years of genocide against indigenous groups in the Americas.

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HISTORY

IN IMAGES: The Spanish ghost village that emerges from underwater every few years

In 1992 the Galician village of Aceredo was deliberately flooded and submerged underwater, but every few years when the water levels are low, this eerie 'pueblo' reappears.

The submerged village of Aceredo in Galicia.
Usually submerged ruins of the former village of Aceredo. Photo MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

Recently the old town of Aceredo in Galicia’s province of Ourense has remerged from the nearby reservoir, revealing eerie scenes of a village lost and forgotten.

However this is not some ancient tragedy dating back centuries; the village was only flooded in 1992. 

Usually submerged ruins of the former village of Aceredo
Usually submerged ruins of the former village of Aceredo. Photo Miguel Riopa / AFP
 
 
Why was it flooded?
 
It all started with an international agreement signed in 1968 between the heads of state of Spain and Portugal, Franco and Salazar, in order to construct the Lindoso dam.
 
While the dam and the reservoir were great feats of engineering, in order for the project to be possible, it meant that some of the land would have to be lost.
 
The flooded village of Aceredo in Galicia
A man walks among the ruins of the former village of Aceredo. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 
 
 
What happened to the people of Aceredo? 
 
In order to get the residents out of the town and carry out the work, the Portuguese hydroelectric plant EDP began the arduous task of negotiations.
 
The people of Aceredo of course did not want to leave their town, but finally some were convinced to abandon their homes in return for financial compensation.
 
As soon as the company had convinced just over half of the residents to leave, the order was published in the Spanish BOE state bulletin for the rest to pack up and go, despite the neighbourhood demonstrations. 
 
The village of Aceredo galicia
The village of Aceredo was flooded in 1992. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 
 
 
When did Aceredo first disappear underwater? 
 
Once permissions were fully approved, all the residents had left and the dam had been built, the hydroelectric plant closed its floodgates on January 8th 1992. The river began to flow in quickly, swollen from a period of very heavy rainfall, and Aceredo began to be submerged underwater.
 
Aceredo’s residents were given compensation to leave the village. Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

 
 
 
Did the same happen to other villages in Galicia?
 
Yes, the same happened to four other nearby villages – O Bao, Buscalque, A Reloeira and Lantemil which were also swallowed up by the rising waters of the reservoir. 
 
The floods happened so quickly and the people in some of the villages were not aware or had not been warned. Some of the residents of the towns of Buscalque and O Bao for example, had to swim out with any belongings they could grab, watching their animals drown before their eyes. The residents there were lucky that the disaster didn’t claim any human lives, as EDP did not even disconnect the power cables before it was flooded. 
 
Aceredo is the most famous of Galicia’s submerged villages. Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

 
 
Another reservoir was also created further north, due to the pact that Spanish dictator Francisco Franco signed in the 1960s.
 
This was the Belesear Reservoir, near the town of Portomarín. In this case, the residents had lots of warning and in anticipation of the flooding, the settlement was relocated to higher ground.
 
Some of the most historic buildings in the town were rebuilt stone by stone including the 12th and 10th-century churches of San Nicolás and San Pedro. 
 
The flooded village of Aceredo
The usually submerged ruins of the former village of Aceredo, appear from the Lindoso reservoir. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 
 
 
Why is Aceredo the most famous? 
 
Aceredo is the most well-known of these flooded Galician villages as it is one of the only ones that completely remerges when the water levels are low.
 
Here, the water levels recede every few years, so that it is possible once again to walk along its streets and peer into the skeletons of its buildings. 
 
Other villages such as the one in Portomarín, only allow for the tops of its buildings and the spires of its churches to be seen when water levels recede. 
 
Aceredo in Galicia, Spain
People living in the Aceredo village were ejected from their homes in 1992 for the construction of the reservoir. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

 
 
Did this only happen in Galicia? 
 
Unfortunately, no. Several towns in different parts of Spain have fallen to the same fate as Aceredo. In 1987, the old Leonese town of Riaño was completely demolished to build the reservoir of the same name. 
 
The worst tragedy of this kind however happened in Ribadelago Viejo, also in Castilla y León, near Zamora. In 1959, the entire town was washed away by the waters of the Vega de Tera dam, due to a construction error. Of its 549 inhabitants, 144 died, although only 28 bodies were recovered. The rest remain submerged underwater. 
 
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