One of aviation’s most enduring mysteries might be closer to a resolution after the publication of a recent study in the science journal Forensic Anthropology.
According to the BBC, University of Tennessee professor and anthropologist Richard Jantz and his team of researchers determined with near certainty that human remains found in 1940 on an island in the Pacific Ocean are the bones of Amelia Earhart.
Three years before the bones were found among debris on the remote island, the groundbreaking female aviator disappeared while flying a trans-Pacific route.
She was believed to have been traveling close to Nikumaroro, the island situated southwest of Hawaii where the bones were found, at the time of her disappearance.
Adding to the circumstantial evidence, the British explorers who first discovered the human skull and other human bones on the island also reportedly found a woman’s shoe, a bottle of the brand of liqueur Earhart often took with her on trips and a tool used by the also-missing navigator aboard her plane for the doomed flight.
“There was suspicion at the time that the bones could be the remains of Amelia Earhart,” Jantz wrote.
Shortly after their discovery, however, a researcher shot down rumors that the bones belonged to Earhart by determining that they were the remains of a man.
Jantz has now come to believe that the earlier researcher was simply wrong in his conclusion that the bones came from a man.
“Forensic anthropology was not well developed in the early 20th century,” he wrote.
As CNN reported, Jantz pointed to “many examples of erroneous assessments by anthropologists of the period” in supporting his assertion that Dr. D.W. Hoodless of the Central Medical School in Fiji was incorrect in making the initial determination.
Proving the bones’ origin was a difficult task from the start due to the fact that they have since been lost and cannot be subjected to modern testing. Nevertheless, Jantz used the methods available to determine that Earhart’s remains have been recovered.
By comparing photographs of the pilot and samples of her clothing to the dimensions recorded for the recovered bones, researchers including a “historical seamstress” contributed to the paper’s conclusion that there was an apparent match.
“This analysis reveals that Earhart is more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99% of individuals in a large reference sample,” the researchers wrote.
The conclusion was further bolstered by an assertion that the skeletal remains belonged to a European woman of above-average height.
Jantz and his team wrote that the evidence “strongly supports the conclusion that the Nikumaroro bones belonged to Amelia Earhart.”
Barring any “definitive evidence” proving otherwise, the anthropologist wrote that his paper proves “the most convincing argument is that they are hers.”
The research team went into the project with other possibilities in mind regarding the origin of the disputed remains found on the small Pacific island.
Jantz specifically investigated claims that the bones could belong to either a native or a crew member from a 1929 shipwreck.
After considering all the evidence, Jantz wrote that Earhart is “the only documented person” to whom the bones could belong.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.