A team of forensic scientists in Madrid say they have located the remains of Spanish novelist, poet and playwright Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616), but have stopped short of a definitive identification given the lack of DNA evidence.
The scientist in charge of the search for the author of Don Quixote, Francisco Etxebarria, announced on Tuesday that it was “possible” that “some fragments” found belonged to Cervantes, a conclusion his team reached “in light of all of the information generated in historical, archeological and anthropological terms.”
“We have not been able to resolve the mystery with absolute certainty, which is why we are being cautious,” he explained. “We are convinced that we have something. It is possible to consider that among the fragments of [the bones] located in the ground of the crypt in the current Trinitarias church there are some that belong to Miguel de Cervantes.”
The novelist was buried somewhere inside the former convent, located in the capital’s Las Letras neighborhood, on April 23, 1616.
The remains – a jaw bone, as well as several bones from arms and a hip – were located in a severely deteriorated state, and mixed up with those of Cervantes’ wife, Catalina de Salazar. The remains have been identified by a team of around 30 specialists from across Spain using historical and archaeological evidence, but not with DNA. The remains were found in the crypt of the Trinitarias church, in central Madrid, after having been lost for four centuries.
Experts searched the old cloistered convent with the help of ground-penetrating radar, also known as a georadar, which picks up and measures underground cavities uses wave pulses. Since 1870, evidence had been found suggesting that there were undiscovered burial sites beneath the monastery, including one that could belong to an adult man.
Earlier this year, the team discovered a coffin containing bone fragments and bearing the initials “M. C.” inside the religious building in Madrid.