Anthropologist: Bones Found in 1940 on Pacific Island Are Likely Amelia Earhart's

Tanya Simon
March 8, 2018

It's presumed that she and Fred Noonan, her navigator, crashed somewhere in the open ocean.

The prevailing belief is that Earhart, 39, and Noonan, 44, ran out of fuel and ditched their twin-engine Lockheed Electra in the Pacific Ocean near remote Howland Island while on the third-to-last leg of their epic journey. It's authored by Richard Jantz, a professor emeritus in the department of anthropology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and he returns to the original measurements of the bones to argue that they did once belong to a woman. "If the bones do not belong to Amelia Earhart, then they are from someone very similar to her".

Using several modern quantitative techniques - including Fordisc, a computer programme for estimating sex, ancestry, and stature from skeletal measurements - Jantz found that Hoodless had incorrectly determined the sex of the remains. Hoodless had concluded that the bones belonged to a man.

Dr. D.W. Hoodless first examined the bones found on Nikumaroro Island in 1940, but concluded that they belonged to a man.

To do this, he compared the measurements of the skull, humerus, radius and tibia to Earhart's dimensions, which were based off photographs and clothing found in the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers at Purdue University. In addition, the initial measurements were compared to historical figures taken when people were shorter on average than in Earhart's time. Also uncovered were a shoe "judged to have been a woman's", a box created to carry a Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant manufactured in 1918, and a bottle of Benedictine, an herbal liqueur drink.

The actual bones disappeared decades ago in Fiji, but we still have some of the measurements, including humerus and radius arm bones.

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Amelia Earhart in her airplane in a photo dated to 1936.

In reaching his conclusion, Jantz investigated other theories about the bones. Scientists studying bones discovered on a small Pacific island have identified the remains as those of to the female aviator.

Near the bones were items believed to be Earhart's possessions, including a shoe and a Benedictine bottle she was known to carry.

However, that is still "subject to considerable variation, much of which was little understood in 1941", he added. Many books and TV programs have attempted to unravel her final days and crash site.

Another theory has it that Earhart (and possibly Noonan) survived a crash landing and that at least she was taken prisoner by Japanese forces, who were expanding their reach in the region in the lead up to World War II. He believes they were tortured and died in custody.

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