TIME Spain

After Four Centuries, Don Quixote Writer’s Remains May Be Found

Specialists use ground-penetrating radar to penetrate into the sub-soil in central Madrid
Specialists use ground-penetrating radar to peer into the subsoil beneath a Trinitarian convent in a quest to find the remains of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes in Madrid on April 28, 2014. Sergio Perez—Reuters

A team of researchers will spend several months excavating a Madrid church in search of Miguel de Cervantes' bones

When Miguel de Cervantes, the Spanish writer best known for penning Don Quixote, died in April 1616, he was buried at a Trinitarian convent in Madrid.

For centuries, that’s all we really knew. The exact location of his remains was poorly documented and thus forgotten; it was long assumed that what was left of one of modern literature’s first great writers had been lost for good.

On Monday, however, researchers said they had identified a handful of locations in a Madrid church where Cervantes may have been buried — although they were quick to rein in their optimism.

“We don’t want to generate false hopes,” forensic anthropologist Francisco Etxeberria, the project’s leader, said at a news conference, according to an AFP report. “I don’t know if we are going to find him … We are talking about a universal figure, we want to do things without any rush, seriously.”

The Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, where Cervantes’ bones are suspected to lie, has been renovated several times over the centuries, meaning any remains once buried there may have been misplaced. The excavation process, BBC reports, will require several months of effort.

The city of Madrid will fund the next phase of the project, which first began in April, Mayor Ana Botella told reporters at the news conference.

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