Earhart Project Research Document #51
6 February 2018

Amelia Earhart & the Nikumaroro Bones

This document is provided on this web site as a matter of general interest and to aid in research by individuals. No permission to reproduce it or transmit it is implied or granted.


The unknown fate of Amelia Earhart continues to fascinate. One of the most tantalizing clues involves skeletal remains found on Nikumaroro Island in 1940. Some have summarily dismissed these bones as the remains of Amelia Earhart because they were assessed as male by Dr. D. W. Hoodless, principal of the Central Medical School, Fiji, in 1940. The most recent such dismissal is that of Cross and Wright (2015), who argue that Hoodless’s methods were sound and therefore his sex estimate was likely correct. This paper addresses two issues: (1) it evaluates Hoodless’s methods and Cross and Wright’s support of them, and (2) it compares the Nikumaroro bones with what we can learn about Amelia Earhart’s bone lengths. When Hoodless conducted his analysis, forensic osteology was not yet a well-developed discipline. Evaluating his methods with reference to modern data and methods suggests that they were inadequate to his task; this is particularly the case with his sexing method. Therefore his sex assessment of the Nikumaroro bones cannot be assumed to be correct. To address the question of whether the Nikumaroro bones match estimates of Amelia Earhart’s bone lengths, I compare Earhart’s bone lengths with the Nikumaroro bones using Mahalanobis distance. This analysis reveals that Earhart is more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99% of individuals in a large reference sample. This strongly supports the conclusion that the Nikumaroro bones belonged to Amelia Earhart.

FULL ARTICLE. Back to Analysis Index
Archived Documents Earhart Project Home Page

About TIGHAR Join TIGHAR TIGHAR Projects TIGHAR Publications Contract Services
The TIGHAR Store Blog TIGHAR Forum Contact TIGHAR TIGHAR Home

Copyright 2018 by TIGHAR, a non-profit foundation. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be reproduced by xerographic, photographic, digital or any other means for any purpose. No portion of the TIGHAR Website may be stored in a retrieval system, copied, transmitted or transferred in any form or by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, digital, photographic, magnetic or otherwise, for any purpose without the express, written permission of TIGHAR. All rights reserved.

Contact us at: info@tighar.org  •   Phone: 610.467.1937   •   JOIN NOW