Amelia Earhart's Bones Unidentified for Decades Because Scientists Thought They Were Too Strong To Be a Woman’s

Bones found on a Pacific Island in the 1940s, which were likely to be those of pilot Amelia Earhart, went unidentified for years because scientists believed they belonged to a man, an anthropologist has claimed in a new study.

When the bones were discovered on Nikumaroro Island—about three years after Earhart disappeared and was eventually declared lost at sea—Dr. D.W. Hoodless, principal of the Central Medical School, Fiji, examined them and concluded they were a male’s in 1941.

However, a forensic analysis published in Forensic Anthropology concluded that Hoodless’s belief that the bones belonged to a “middle-aged stocky male about 5'5.5" in height,” is likely incorrect.

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The new research, which was conducted by Richard Jantz, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center, involved multiple techniques—including a computer program used to estimate sex and stature of skeletons. Jantz also used photographs of the famed pilot to compare her estimated bone lengths with those of the unidentified bones.

3_8_Amelia Earhart American aviatrix Amelia Earhart (1897 - 1937) laughs with joy during a trip to Northolt in a Moth plane, on June 24, 1928. Bones likely from Amelia Earhart went unidentified for years because scientists believed they belonged to a man. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

“The fact remains that if the bones are those of a stocky male, he would have had bone lengths very similar to Amelia Earhart’s, which is a low-probability event,” Jantz wrote in his published paper. “Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers.”

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Instead of blaming Hoodless’s methods, Jantz said misidentification was the issue—as well as an overall field-wide poor understanding of the science of human beings. At the time of Hoodless’s conclusion, “anthropology was not well developed,” Jantz wrote.

However, using Fordic—a software program Jantz co-created—today’s anthropologists can more accurately identify human remains. The program has become so popular that most other experts in the field across the globe use it today, according to a statement detailing his findings.

Despite the new evidence, there's no doubt that conspiracy theories surrounding her disappearance will continue to circulate.