No one is quite sure where Miguel de Cervantes, one of Spain's most celebrated authors, is buried. There are monuments to the writer and his famous knight errant, theIngenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, but nearly 400 years after his death, Spain has only a vague idea of where the world's first novelist was laid to rest.
All signs point to the the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid, where Cervantes was supposedly buried, and on Monday, that’s where researchers began their search. They will be using ground-penetrating radar to examine the oldest areas of the convent for bones. If they find any that look like they could be Cervantes, they’ll excavate and analyze the body, before reburying it at the convent.
The injuries Cervantes sustained in life could help scientists identify him now.
"Cervantes was nearly 70 when he died, and he'd described himself physically in his own writings," notes Francisco Etxeberría, a forensic anthropologist who helped exhume the body of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda last year. "Cervantes had a curved nose, a hunchback — and only six teeth! Not to mention his injuries: gunshot wounds to his chest, and a crippled left hand. Whatever's left of his bones should show some signs of these injuries."
The total excavation should last for about a year and is estimated to cost $138,000. The convent (which is home to a dozen cloistered nuns) is currently only open to the public for mass.