New forensic analysis indicates bones were Amelia Earhart's, researcher suggests

March 7, 2018, University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Amelia Earhart standing under nose of her Lockheed Model 10-E Electra. Gelatin silver print, 1937. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart. Credit: public domain

Bone measurement analysis indicates that the remains found on a remote island in the South Pacific were likely those of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart, according to a UT researcher.

Richard Jantz, professor emeritus of anthropology and director emeritus of UT's Forensic Anthropology Center, re-examined seven measurements conducted in 1940 by physician D. W. Hoodless. Hoodless had concluded that the bones belonged to a man.

Jantz, using several modern quantitative techniques—including Fordisc, a computer program for estimating sex, ancestry, and stature from skeletal measurements—found that Hoodless had incorrectly determined the sex of the remains. The program, co-created by Jantz, is used by nearly every board-certified forensic anthropologist in the US and around the world.

The data revealed that the bones have more similarity to Earhart than to 99 percent of individuals in a large reference sample.

The new study is published in the journal Forensic Anthropology.

Jantz also compared the bone lengths with Earhart's. Her humerus and radius lengths were obtained from a photograph with a scalable object. The scale was provided by Jeff Glickman of Photek. Her tibia length was estimated from measurements of her clothing in the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers at Purdue University. A historic seamstress took the measurements, which included the inseam length and waist circumference of Earhart's trousers.

Based on this information, Jantz concludes that "until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers."

Questioning Hoodless's analysis had less to do with his competence and more to do with the state of at the time, Jantz said.

"Forensic anthropology was not well developed in the early 20th century," the paper states. "There are many examples of erroneous assessments by anthropologists of the period. We can agree that Hoodless may have done as well as most analysts of the time could have done, but this does not mean his analysis was correct."

Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She mysteriously disappeared in 1937 while flying over the Pacific. Many assumed that her plane had crashed into the waters, and she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were never seen again.

A group of researchers, including Jantz, believe she died as a castaway on the island of Nikumaroro.

Along with bones found in 1940, a search party discovered part of a shoe judged to have been a woman's, a sextant box designed to hold a Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant, manufactured around 1918 and similar to the one Earhart's co-pilot used, and a Benedictine bottle, something Earhart was known to carry.

The bones eventually disappeared, and what remained was metric data limited to four measurements of the skull and three of long bones—the tibia, humerus, and radius.

In reaching his conclusion, Jantz investigated other theories about the bones. He looked at the possibility that they may have belonged to one of 11 men who were presumed killed at Nikumaroro in the 1929 wreck of the Norwich City on the island's western reef, more than four miles from where the bones were found. He also considered the possibility that they were the bones of a Pacific Islander.

He concluded that there was no documentation on the men and no evidence that any of them had survived the shipwreck to die as a castaway. The woman's shoe and American sextant box also are not artifacts likely to have been associated with a survivor of the wreck. Nor was there evidence that a Pacific Islander had ended up as a castaway.

Based on all the evidence, the paper states, Earhart "was known to have been in the area of Nikumaroro Island, she went missing, and human remains were discovered which are entirely consistent with her and inconsistent with most other people."

Explore further: Researcher to review evidence of Amelia Earhart theory

Related Stories

Amelia Earhart might have died as a castaway

November 4, 2016

American aviator Amelia Earhart became famous in the 1930s for her flying adventures—at one point, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. But it was her sudden disappearance in July 1939 that ...

Amelia Earhart - DNA research targets mystery

February 21, 2011

Research set to begin in a Simon Fraser University forensic lab could produce the first DNA profile of aviation's most celebrated woman, Amelia Earhart – and provide new clues about her disappearance more than 70 years ...

Earhart team says possible plane debris sighted

August 21, 2012

Researchers trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the 1937 disappearance of US aviator Amelia Earhart in the Pacific have said they spotted debris under water that may have come from her plane.

Recommended for you

T. Rex couldn't stick out its tongue, new research shows

June 20, 2018

Dinosaurs are often depicted as fierce creatures, baring their teeth, with tongues wildly stretching from their mouths like giant, deranged lizards. But new research reveals a major problem with this classic image: Dinosaurs ...

11 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SwamiOnTheMountain
not rated yet Mar 07, 2018
Wow. So she did crash, but still died on that island.
dnatwork
not rated yet Mar 07, 2018
Wow. So she did crash, but still died on that island.


Yeah, eaten by crabs.
etherair
5 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2018
As it says, until evidence comes up directly contradicting all the circumstantial findings, this is the answer.
The bone comparison is just the latest in a long string of finds that are statistically improbable to be anyone else.
24volts
1 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2018
Does she have known relatives? Do a DNA test on the bones. That should either collaborate the bone study or tell them it's not her.
ddaye
5 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2018
Does she have known relatives? Do a DNA test on the bones. That should either collaborate the bone study or tell them it's not her.

The bones evidently have since been lost. All they had to go on for the new study was measurements. Maybe some time in the future we'll get lucky and the bones will turn up in a storage area and able to be traced to the original find.
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (2) Mar 07, 2018
#24V: As it says in the article, "The bones eventually disappeared..."
Anonym210696
2.3 / 5 (4) Mar 07, 2018
I must have missed something reading this article, but this seems like one of the longest pieces of junk research I have read this month. We start with a researcher who is trying to prove his conclusion, that Earhart died on Nikumaroro. He doesn't get to that conclusion by evidence, he already believes it. So he then goes searching for items that might fit into that conclusion and finds thing that might potentially be similar to things that Earhart may or may not have been carrying at the time. With this list of bad evidence he concludes that he was right. Now decades later, after the evidence is gone, a new researcher who also jumps to conclusion believes that his analysis on evidence that he doesn't have makes it almost certain that it belongs to Earhart.

Liebnitz434
1 / 5 (1) Mar 08, 2018
Them bones gonna rise again, them bones.
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2018
It is true that the conclusions of these researchers are conjecture. Based on analysis with newer technology and a spectrum of forensic disciplines. Of recorded data from previous researchers.

Jantz and his team admit that they do not have 100% proof. And are willing to review this analysis if new evidence is presented.

Unfortunately, with the physical evidence missing that may never be possible.

Reality is, Science is a continuous process. All too often resulting in unsatisfactory results. So mature up and learn to deal with disappointment!

I suspect the original evidence is lost. Unless some rich collector has it stashed? And his collection comes up for sale.

Or a mislabeled box of bones is found buried amid a thousand other poorly itemized boxes in an obscure storeroom.

Most likely? Whoever had the remains, after their own death? All the evidence was simply trashed by family with all the other detritus they didn't want to be bothered with.
TrollBane
not rated yet Mar 08, 2018
Wait! She didn't end up in the Delta Quadrant? Television, you lied!
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2018
I'd heard it was a jealous Lindbergh. Who had his nazis pals intercept Erharts plane with one of their magnetic-propeled twirling zeppelins. Then carried Lindbergh and Noonan off to the nazis secret North Pole base and imprisoned them inside the Hollow Earth.

I just had an idea, Does anyone know if any of the aircraft wreckage was located? Maybe she escaped their sinking plane, to perish of her injuries after pulling herself om shore beyond the tide line? Following the currents around the island might make it possible to locate the engine on the sea bottom?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.