An anthropologist has determined that bones found in the South Pacific in 1940 are 99 percent likely to have belonged to record-setting pilot Amelia Earhart. University of Tennessee professor Richard Jantz reported his finding based on re-examining data of the bones which have long disappeared.
His position paper on the research, published in the winter 2018 edition of scientific journal Forensic Anthropology, debunks a previous study nearly 80 years ago that determined that the bones discovered in 1940 on Nikumaroro Island came from a male.
Jantz started by analyzing the original measurements of the skeletal remains, in particular the skull and bones from an arm and a leg. Then, he used those findings to compare them to Earhart's bodily statistics derived from images and clothing stored at the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers at Purdue University. He also came up with proportionate figures of her bones based on the materials at the university, as well as her pilot's license which indicated she was five feet and eight inches tall. He also had an expert seamstress measure the inseam of Earhart's pants for additional scaleable information.
Using a forensic image processor, the scientist also took into account the possibility that the bones could have come from an island resident or a crew member from a shipwreck that took place in 1929. But he soon discarded those possibilities.
"The bones are consistent with Earhart in all respects we know or can reasonably infer," indicates the research. "Her height is entirely consistent with the bones. The skull measurements are at least suggestive of female. But most convincing is the similarity of the bone lengths to the reconstructed lengths of Earhart’s bones."
Jantz added that his findings are anything but conclusive enough to shut the door on one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century. He merely surmises that in absence of any evidence disproving the remains are not those of the pilot who went missing in 1937, the most logical explanation is that they do indeed belong to Earhart. He also noted that the forensic findings at the time were flawed by methods of study that were unsophisticated by today's standards.
Earhart, the first female aviator to complete a trans-Atlantic flight, was last seen July 2, 1937, when she and navigator Frederick Noonan departed from an airfield in Papua New Guinea. Their mission to fly around the world was nearly complete with only 7,000 left to go, before reaching the trek's final destination in Oakland, CA.
Their disappearance was the source of much speculation, with theories claiming the two died crashing into the ocean, or were captured by the Japanese after landing on an island.