The missing remains of one of the world’s greatest writers, Miguel de Cervantes, have been unearthed below a chapel in Madrid, nearly 400 years after his death.
The Guardian reports the Spanish writer and his family were buried at Madrid’s Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in 1616. When the church was rebuilt in 1673, the remains were moved into the new building and disappeared.
Archaeologists equipped with 3D scanners, infrared cameras and ground-penetrating radars managed to uncover a hidden crypt below the building and inside found the lid of a coffin with the initials “MC” inscribed upon it. They also exhumed the remains of about 10 people.
“The remains are in a bad state of conservation and do not allow us to do an individual identification of Miguel de Cervantes,” forensic scientist Almudena Garcia Rubio told the BBC.
Despite the poor conditions of the find and the lack of genetic evidence, the scientists said they are confident these are Cervantes’ remains given documented research.
Using information and clues from the author’s writings, the team believe they were able to accurately identify the bones. For example, not long before his death Cervantes wrote that he only had six teeth and detailed specific injuries, such as being shot in the chest and hand with musket ammunition.
His novel El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha), first published in 1605 – and the second part a decade later, a year before his death – is regarded as one of the founding works of the Western canon.
A new tomb will be built in the chapel and the remains reburied. The crypt will then be opened to the public next year, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ death.
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