Monday, October 19, 2009

Columbus of Aragon

I know this is more history than anything else, but Columbus' arrival in the New World is more of terminus quo for many important anthropological and archaeological works.

Christopher Columbus writings prove he was Spanish, claims study

Italy, France, Portugal and even Scotland are among those who have claimed Christopher Columbus as their own over the years, citing a range of spurious links

But American researchers say the mystery over the explorer's true origins has finally been solved after a thorough investigation of his writings.

A study of the language used in the official records and letters of the Great Navigator apparently proves he hailed from the Kingdom of Aragon in northeastern Spain and his mother tongue was Catalan.

Since his death in 1506 debate has raged over the true nationality of the man credited with discovering the Americas.

It was widely believed that he was the son of a weaver born in the Italian port of Genoa, but over the centuries he has been claimed as a native son of Greece, Catalonia, Portugal, Corsica, France and even Poland.

According to one theory, he may have been Jewish and another more recent account traced his origins to Scotland.

But a linguistic professor at Georgetown University in Washington has published new findings following an exhaustive study of documents written in his hand.

Estelle Irizarry studied his language and grammar and concluded that Columbus was a Catalan speaking man from the Kingdom of Aragon, an inland region of north-eastern Spain at the foot of the Pyrenees.

The findings published this month in a new book "The DNA of the writings of Columbus" explain that although he wrote in Castilian it was clearly not his first language and his origins can be pinpointed to the Aragon region because of the grammar and the way he constructed sentences.

"He didn't express him correctly in any written language," said the professor. "His Spanish was notoriously incorrect yet at the same time efficient, poetic and eloquent."

A scientific project launched three years ago to discover his true origins using DNA comparisons between his family and possible descendants has so far failed to provide conclusive results.

A team of scientists took samples from the tomb of Columbus in Seville and from bones belonging to his brother and son and compared them to the genetic make-up of hundreds of people living across Europe with surnames believed to be modern day variants of Columbus.

Swabs were taken from the cheeks of Colom's in Catalonia, Colombo's in Italy and even members of the deposed Portuguese royal family, who argue that Columbus was the product of an extramarital affair involving a Portuguese prince.

Scientists had hoped to establish a common ancestor using standard Y-chromosome tests but they have yet to find a link.

They study may be in vain, however, as there is evidence to suggest that Columbus, who first crossed the Atlantic in 1492, may have adopted his surname later in life to disguise his true origins.

One theory claims that he once worked for a pirate called Vincenzo Columbus, and adopted that name in order not to embarrass his relations with his new profession.

Columbus himself, when asked about his origins, used to shrug off the questions. "Vine de nada" – "I came from nothing", he said.
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References:

Govan, Fiona. "Christopher Columbus writings prove he was Spanish, claims study". Telegraph. Posted: October 14, 2009. Available online: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/6326698/Christopher-Columbus-writings-prove-he-was-Spanish-claims-study.html

Want to read about Dr. Irizarry's findings?

Estelle Irizarry. Christopher Columbus: The DNA of his Writings. San Juan de Puerto Rico: Ediciones Puerto, 2009.

1 comment:

Dom said...

Samuel Eliot Morison, who had absolutely no reason to be anything but completely objective, wrote the following in Chapter II of his book "Admiral of the Ocean Sea," pp.7-8.

"There is no mystery about the birth, family or race of Christopher Columbus. ... There is no more reason to doubt that Christopher Columbus was a Genoese-born Catholic Christian, steadfast in his faith and proud of his native city, than to doubt that George Washington was a Virginia-born Anglican of English race, proud of being an American.

"Every contemporary Spaniard or Portuguese who wrote about Columbus and his discoveries calls him Genoese. Three contemporary Genoese chroniclers claim him as a compatriot. Every early map on which his nationality is recorded describes him as Genoese. Nobody in the Admiral's lifetime, or for three centuries after, had any doubt about his birthplace.

"If, however, you suppose that these facts would settle the matter, you fortunately know little of the so-called 'literature' on the 'Columbus Question.' By presenting farfetched hypotheses and sly innuendos as facts, by attacking documents of proven authenticity as false, by fabricating others (such as the famous Pontevedra documents), and drawing unwarranted deductions from things that Columbus said or did, he has been presented as Castilian, Catalan, Corsican, Majorcan, Portuguese, French, German, English, Greek, and Armenian."

Morison noted that many existing legal documents demonstrate the Genoese origin of Columbus, his father Domenico, and his brothers Bartolomeo and Giacomo (Diego). These documents, written in Latin by notaries, were legally valid in Genoese courts. When notaries died, their documents were turned over to the archives of the Republic of Genoa. The documents, uncovered in the 19th century when Italian historians examined the Genoese archives, form part of the "Raccolta Colombiana". On page 14, Morison wrote:

"Besides these documents from which we may glean facts about Christopher's early life, there are others which identify the Discoverer as the son of Domenico the wool weaver, beyond the possibility of doubt. For instance, Domenico had a brother Antonio, like him a respectable member of the lower middle class in Genoa. Antonio had three sons: Matteo, Amigeto and Giovanni, who was generally known as Giannetto (the Genoese equivalent of 'Johnny'). Giannetto, like Christopher, gave up a humdrum occupation to follow the sea. In 1496 the three brothers met in a notary's office at Genoa and agreed that Johnny should go to Spain and seek out his first cousin 'Don Cristoforo de Colombo, Admiral of the King of Spain,' each contributing one third of the traveling expenses. This quest for a job was highly successful. The Admiral gave Johnny command of a caravel on the Third Voyage to America, and entrusted him with confidential matters as well."

I would like to add that the medieval scholar Diana Gilliland Wright "casts doubt on Irizarry’s belief."

http://medievalnews.blogspot.com/2009/10/scholar-casts-doubt-on-claims-that.html