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Bones found in 1940 seem to be Amelia Earhart's, study says

By MALCOLM RITTER - AP Science Writer

Bones found in 1940 on a western Pacific Ocean island were quite likely to be remains from famed aviator Amelia Earhart, a new analysis concludes.

The study and other evidence “point toward her rather strongly,” University of Tennessee anthropologist Richard Jantz said Thursday.

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.

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 bones of the arm and leg. Those measurements led a scientist in 1941 to conclude the bones belong to a man. In 1998, however, 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.

Now Jantz weighs in with another analysis of the measurements, published in January in the journal Forensic Anthropology.

For comparison, Jantz used an inseam 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. It’s highly unlikely that a random person would resemble the bones as closely as Earhart, he wrote.

In a phone interview, Jantz noted that some artifacts found on the island also support the possibility that the bones came from Earhart.

“I think we have pretty good evidence that it’s her,” he said.

Jantz’s conclusions go along with research presented by researcher Gary Quigg who spoke at Wesley Manor in January at the invitation of Frankfort Zonta members.

Quigg hails from Indiana and is a member of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR). He was part of a team that traveled to Nikumaroro Island in the Pacific Ocean where artifacts have been found that suggest Earhart force landed there when she went missing on July 2, 1937, and was alive for some period afterward.

One by one Quigg went through the 10 pieces of evidence believed to linked to Earhart. Among the artifacts were the bones studied by Jantz and other items among the clues to which Jantz referred:

1. Human bones, a woman’s shoe, sextant box; found in 1940. The 13 human bones, when positioned as they would be on a skeleton, indicate they are from a woman of Earhart’s height and weight. The shoe and its 1930’s era replacement heel was traced to a manufacturer and believed to be a women’s American size 9 blue oxford.

2. Human bone found by TIGHAR in 2010.

3. A jar that had contained freckle cream of the same type Earhart used.

4. A 1930’s makeup compact of the type used by the aviator.

5. A broken U.S.-made pocket knife. A pocketknife was among the items listed on the plane’s inventory.

6. Button and a zipper tab made in the U.S. in the 1930’s.

7. Eleven fire features with melted glass bottles. Quigg posited the glass bottles could have been used to boil water.

8. 1,400 fish, turtle and bird bones. According to Quigg, islanders interviewed said the fish and turtles bones were too small to be from something they would eat, and the bird bones were from a species that tasted bad.

9. Clam shells believed to be used to catch fresh rain water.

10. Four forensic dogs trained to scent out soils where a body had decomposed. On the island, each dog “alerted” at the same location.

Sharon Bardonner contributed to this story.