Human bones found in 1940 on a western Pacific Ocean island were most likely to be the remains of famed aviator Amelia Earhart, a new analysis has found.
In one of the world’s most enduring aviation mysteries, Richard Jantz, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is “99 per cent” convinced the Nikumaroro bones — named after the island they were found on — belong to her.
Publishing his findings in January in the journal Forensic Anthropology, Mr Jantz says new analysis of her body measurements taken from photographs “point toward her rather strongly”.
“The fate of Amelia Earhart continues to captivate public and
scientific attention,” he wrote.
“I think we have pretty good evidence that it’s her,” he said in a recent interview reported the ABC.
Earhart disappeared during an attempted flight around the world in 1937, and the search for an answer to what happened to her and her navigator has captivated the public for decades.
Mr Jantz’s analysis is the latest chapter in a back-and-forth that has played out about the remains, which were found in 1940 on Nikumaroro Island but are now lost.
All that survive are seven measurements, from the skull and the bones of the arm and leg.
Those measurements led a scientist in 1941 to conclude the bones belong to a man.
In 1998, however, Mr Jantz and another scientist reinterpreted them as coming from a woman of European ancestry, and about Earhart’s height.
But in 2015, still other researchers concluded the original assessment as a man was correct.
For comparison, Mr Jantz used an in-seam length and waist circumference from a pair of Earhart’s trousers.
He also drew on a photo of her holding an oil can to estimate the lengths of two arm bones.
Analysis showed “the bones are consistent with Earhart in all respects we know or can reasonably infer,” he wrote in the journal article.
He said his study analysed “Earhart’s body size and shape to determine whether they fit the meager evidence at hand”.
It’s highly unlikely that a random person would resemble the bones as closely as Earhart, he wrote.
When the bones were first discovered, Mr Jantz wrote that a humerus, radius, tibia, fibula and both femora were found in complete form.
“Also found were part of a shoe, judged to have been a woman’s; a sextant box, designed to carry a Brandis Navy Surveying Sextant manufactured circa 1918; and a Benedictine bottle.
“There was suspicion at the time that the bones could be the remains of
Amelia Earhart,” he wrote.
The latest findings have re-ignited the imagination of historians, conspiracy theorists and the general public, bringing the enduring mystery one step closer to being solved.
Mr Jantz says that “Earhart is more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99% of individuals in a large reference sample… (which) strongly supports the conclusion that the Nikumaroro bones belonged to Amelia Earhart.”
He wrote that the bones that were discovered were “entirely consistent” with her and “inconsistent with most other people” and she was “known to have been in the area of Nikumaroro Island”.
Mr Jantz concludes at the end of his paper that “until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers.”