Spanish Dig to Find Body of Famed Poet Yields Nothing

A high-profile dig aimed at locating the body of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was executed at the start of the Spanish Civil War, has yielded nothing, officials said Friday.

The announcement means that one of the 1936-39 war's greatest mysteries — the whereabouts of the remains of Spain's most acclaimed 20th-century poet and playwright — will remain unresolved for now.

The two-month excavation on a hillside outside the southern city of Granada produced "not one bone, item of clothing or bullet shell," said Begona Alvarez, the Andalusia region's justice minister.

The excavation near the town of Alfacar had been requested by historians and relatives of a handful of men believed to have been executed and buried along with Garcia Lorca. It was part of a movement begun in the late 1990s to help Spaniards locate the graves of loved ones who went missing during the war.

Irish-born Garcia Lorca specialist Ian Gibson pinpointed the area based on statements from a man who said he helped bury the poet after he was shot.

But Alvarez said the dig, begun Oct. 28, was finished and concluded "there were no burials here."

Scientists found the soil went down only some 16 inches before it hit rock, making it too shallow for a grave, she said.

If no remains were found at the site near the town of Alfacar, the digging would not be continued elsewhere, regional officials said earlier.

Garcia Lorca was executed in the opening weeks of the war by militia fighters loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco, whose rightist forces rose up against an elected, leftist Republican government and ultimately prevailed.

The conflict and ensuing dictatorship left an estimated half a million people dead. Authorities believe more than 100,000 civilians killed by Franco forces were never accounted for.

People have speculated for years that Garcia Lorca may have been shot and buried in another part of Granada or that his body was exhumed by his killers and buried elsewhere so that it would not be found.

The poet's family opposed the dig, arguing that the he should not be singled out for recognition when so many families in Spain also are seeking to recover missing loved ones.

Garcia Lorca is best known for tragedies such as "Blood Wedding" and his poetry collections "Poet in New York and "Gypsy Ballads." His work draws on universal themes like love, death, passion, cruelty and injustice.