Science & Technology

We Had Amelia Earhart's Bones All Along, According to New Forensic Analysis

It's one of the most iconic mysteries of the 20th century: What on Earth happened to Amelia Earhart? There are enough conspiracy theories and wild opinions on the matter to keep you busy for a lifetime, but researchers think they finally cracked the case in March 2018. Are they right this time?

Dem Bones

Bermuda Triangle who? According to a study published in March 2018 in the journal Forensic Anthropology, Amelia Earhart wasn't sucked up into the mystical, mythical watery vortex. Nope, apparently, we had all the evidence we needed right under our noses more than 70 years ago. Richard Jantz, professor emeritus of anthropology and director emeritus of University of Tennessee at Knoxville's Forensic Anthropology Center, re-examined seven bone measurements taken in 1941 by the physician D. W. Hoodless. He originally concluded that the bones belonged to a man. After taking another look, Jantz believes that was a big error.

Jantz used several modern quantitative techniques including Fordisc, a computer program for estimating sex, ancestry, and stature from skeletal measurements, to determine the sex of the remains. According to Jantz's data, the bones in question have more similarity to Earhart than to 99 percent of the individuals in a large reference sample. Though the bones that were analyzed in 1941 have since been lost (convenient, right?), the Fordisc technique is trusted by the majority of the world's board-certified forensic anthropologists.

"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."

Oh, yes, you read that earlier part right. These measurements were taken without having the bones themselves. In conjunction with the techniques described earlier, the researchers only had photographic clues to go off of for Earhart's bone measurements. That meant comparing the lengths of her humerus and tibia to a scalable object in a photo, as well as the lengths of the inseam and waist circumference in her clothing. Based on all of the information he gathered, Jantz concluded that "until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers."

If these results are right, that means that Earhart wound up on a remote spot in the South Pacific called Gardner Island (Nikumaroro). This places her just southeast of Howland Island, Earhart's intended target.

Pick a Theory, Any Theory

You may remember a similar story to this one popping up not even a year previous. That news touted a mysterious photo as being one of Earhart on the Marshall Islands. Mystery solved! — until it wasn't. The photo was quickly outed as one not depicting Earhart, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. Is Jantz's latest finding another exciting tale to wrap up the legendary mystery? If the other recent Earhart headlines has taught us anything, we should take the news with a grain of salt.

Want to hear Earhart in her own words? Check out her autobiography "The Fun Of It." We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Amelia Earhart - Mini Biography

Written by Joanie Faletto March 8, 2018

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.