Bones Found on South Pacific Island '99 Percent' Likely to Be Amelia Earhart's, Researcher Says

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The mystery surrounding Amelia Earhart’s 1937 disappearance has taken another turn, as a Tennessee researcher says bones found on a remote island in the South Pacific “likely” belong to the legendary American pilot.

“Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers,”  Richard Jantz, professor emeritus of anthropology and director emeritus of University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center, said in a statement.

Although the bones had been analyzed in 1940 by physician D. W. Hoodless — who concluded that the remains belonged to a man — Jantz recently reexamined the seven bone measurements using modern techniques and found a different result.


“There are many examples of erroneous assessments by anthropologists of the period,” Jantz said in a new study published in the journal Forensic Anthropology. “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.”

Jantz ‘s examination revealed that the bones have more similarity to Earhart than to 99 percent of individuals in a large reference sample.

RELATED: Does This Photo Prove Amelia Earhart Survived Her Final Flight?

The celebrated aviator and women’s rights symbol took off with navigator Fred Noonan in her Lockheed Electra at an airfield in Papua New Guinea on July 2, 1937. They flew east toward Howland Island, a tiny sliver of land in the central Pacific Ocean as they holed to complete a marathon 29,000-mile flight.

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

Suddenly, they vanished. The mystery has gone unsolved for 80 years. But this isn’t the first time have attempted to provide answers.

Last year, an unearthed photograph suggested that Earhart had been captured by the Japanese. The black-and-white photograph fueled long-time rumors that the Japanese military took Earhart and Noonan captive with the belief that the aviators were actually American spies.

Les Kinney/National Archives/HISTORY

“I think we proved beyond a reasonable doubt that she survived her flight and was held prisoner by the Japanese on the island of Saipan, where she eventually died,” Shawn Henry, a former executive assistant director of the FBI, said as part of a two-hour documentary Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence.

However, subsequent evidence suggested that the headline-making photo was actually published two years before Earhart’s disappearance, according to CNN.