Study: Bones found on Pacific island in 1940 are likely Amelia Earhart's

Aviator Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean, and almost made it around the world: her plane vanished over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Many hypotheses cropped up over the years to explain her mysterious disappearance. Perhaps she simply ran out of fuel far from land. Perhaps she was forced down and captured by the Japanese military. Or, maybe, she was stranded on a desert island.

The latter is probably the case, as a new study of bones uncovered on Nikumaroro Island in 1940 finds that they correspond to Earhart's physical dimensions and are likely her's.

The study is based on the dimensions of the remains, not genetic evidence, and hinges on the fact that forensic specialists of the past were blinded to the physical reality of athletic women by the presumptions of the era. The bones were previously deemed too manly to be those of a high-society lady, and it was inconceivable to previous examiners that Earhart might be significantly more well-built than published posed photographs of the time suggest.

The bones are consistent with Earhart in all respects we know or can reasonably infer. Her height is entirely consistent with the bones. The skull measurements are at least suggestive of female. But most convincing is the similarity of the bone lengths to the reconstructed lengths of Earhart’s bones. Likelihood ratios of 84–154 would not qualify as a positive identification by the criteria of modern forensic practice, where likelihood ratios are often millions or more. They do qualify as what is often called the preponderance of the evidence, that is, it is more likely than not the Nikumaroro bones were (or are, if they still exist) those of Amelia Earhart. If the bones do not belong to Amelia Earhart, then they are from someone very similar to her. And, as we have seen, a random individual has a very low probability of possessing that degree of similarity. ... Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers.

Previously: 75 years ago, Amelia Earhart went missing—and the search for her continues