Amelia Earhart Found, Scientist Claims

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March 8, 2018

An anthropologist who has long studied Amelia Earhart is touting new evidence in his assertion that the final destination of the famed aviatrix is now known.

Amelia Earhart with plane

Richard Jantz, a professor meritus of forensic anthropology at the University of Tennessee, has re-examined bones found on remote Nikumaroro (Gardner) Island and is now almost certain that they belong to Earhart, who disappeared along with her navigator, Fred Noonan, on July 2, 1937, while attempting a round-the-world flight.

The pair were en route from Papua New Guinea, to tiny Howland Island when they disappeared. Several high-profile searches through the years have turned up clues to what happened to Earhart and Noonan. Alongside the theory that they crashed onto an island or into the sea and died there has long been a theory that they crashed and then were captured by the Japanese. (One high-profile addition to the capture theory arose in 2017, with the assertion that a newly found photograph showed Earhart and Noonan; that photo has since been found to have been taken two years before the doomed flight.)

A search of what was then Gardner Island in 1940 found 13 human bones, which were analyzed at the time by Dr. David Hoodless, head of a medical school in Fiji. Hoodless concluded from that analysis that the bones belonged to a man.

The bones–which included a humerus, radius, and tibia– have since been lost.

Jantz, in a recent re-examination of the case, along with extensive comparisons to photos and clothing measurements of Earhart and to data from 2,776 other people, found that only Earhart's measurements matched those of the bones found on the island.

Amelia Earhart and propeller

Nikumaroro Island has also been a popular choice for Earhart's final resting place because of other things found on the island:

  • Remains of one glass bottle look similar to the design used on a beer bottle in 1936
  • Remains of another glass bottle look similar to the design used on a bottle of women's skin softener
  • A knife found on the island is of the same type as one listed in the plane's inventory
  • Also found have been part of a woman's shoe, and these parts of women's clothing: a zipper pull, a button, and a snap.

The new theory matches the primary conclusion of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TiGHAR), a group with which Jantz has been associated. One of the more compelling pieces of evidence supporting that claim was a piece of aluminum found on the island that TIGHAR says matched one from Earhart's plane.

The results of Jantz's study appear in the journal Forensic Anthropology.

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