Earhart Project Research Document #52
6 February 2018

Bones & Bias

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Among the many stories about Amelia Earhart’s fate that surfaced in the 1960s was one claiming that her bones had been found on Gardner Island (now Nikumaroro). The rumor was widely ridiculed and dismissed. In 1998, TIGHAR research uncovered proof that a partial skeleton had, indeed, been found in 1940 and an official investigation conducted. The discovered historical documents provide a detailed account of the official British inquiry and include the report of a British doctor who concluded that the skeleton was definitely male. What became of the bones is unknown. In 1998, forensic anthropologists associated with TIGHAR, applying late 20th century analytical tools to the bone measurements included with the doctor’s report, concluded that he had been in error. The bones were more likely those of a female of Earhart’s height and ethnic origin. In 2015, a paper by a British graduate student and an Australian anthropologist contradicted those findings and asserted that the doctor’s original verdict was more likely correct. This paper examines the non-anthropological aspects of the 2015 critique and shows it to be riddled with error and misrepresentation. A close reading of the original British investigation reveals it to have been intentionally hobbled. Quantification of Earhart’s physique acquired through forensic techniques and improved analytical software have made it possible to confirm and expand on the 1998 work of the TIGHAR anthropologists. Those new findings are addressed in a paper published in Vol. 1, No. 2 of Forensic Anthropology, a peer reviewed scientific journal. The new analysis reveals that Earhart is more similar to the bones found on Gardner Island in 1940 than 99% of individuals in a large reference sample.

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