Spanish dig closes in on burial site of Irish lord Red Hugh O’Donnell

Valladolid archaeologists find human skull in chapel where Christopher Columbus was also buried

The excavated site reveals a human skull and bones. Photograph: Mayor of Valladolid/Twitter

Somewhere beneath a street in north-west Spain – probably between a bank branch and a budget clothes shop – lies the ruined chapel where an eight-toed rebel Irish lord was buried after his final, fatal mission 418 years ago.

Red Hugh O’Donnell, who escaped captivity and led a rebellion that almost expelled the Tudor English forces from Ireland, fled to Spain after the Battle of Kinsale in 1602 when the rebels tried to team up with a beleaguered Spanish expeditionary force.

He came to the country to lobby for a fresh Spanish invasion but died of a suspected tapeworm infection near the city of Valladolid aged 29.

Four centuries after O’Donnell’s death, investigators and archaeologists in the city are hunting for the chapel where he was buried – and which also held the body of Christopher Columbus before the explorer’s remains began a long intercontinental voyage of their own. Three years after he was buried in the Valladolid monastery, Columbus’s remains were moved to Seville and later sent to the archaeology best Caribbean. After a sojourn on the island of Hispaniola – present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic – they went to Cuba before returning to Seville in 1898.

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