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More than 80 years later, the disappearance of world-famous aviator Amelia Earhart has remained one of American history’s biggest mysteries.
Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, ventured on a trip around the world in 1937 alongside navigator Fred Noonan. On her way from Lae, Papua New Guinea, to Howland Island, Earhart’s signal was lost. Public and private search parties combed the surrounding areas for Noonan and Earhart’s remains, but no evidence was found. On Jan. 5, 1939, Amelia was declared dead in absentia.
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A number of theories have plagued historians since Earhart’s disappearance. The most prominent among them is that the aircraft crashed in the water and sank, but there are several more experimental ideas as well.
Another popular theory maintains that Earhart and Noonan made it to the nearby Gardner Island (now known as Nikumaroro). Signs of habitation were found on the island in October 1937, but neither missing person nor plane was found. However, in 1940, a human skull and bones were found buried on the island. In addition to the remains, part of a woman’s show, a box made to hold a navigational tool, and a bottle of herbal liqueur (Benedictine).
Forensic analysis conducted in 1941 indicated that the bones belonged to a male; however, a recent study has given us reason to believe that the sexual-identification was a mistake.
University of Tennessee professor Richard Jantz explained that the study of human bones was in its infancy at the time, and that the bones in question likely did belong to Earhart.
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After developing a computer program that evaluates sex based on precise skeletal measurements, Jantz’s study concluded that Earhart’s bones were “more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99 [percent] of individuals in a large reference sample.”
Jantz was left with little doubt, writing: “The only documented person to whom [the bones] may belong is Amelia Earhart."
Well, there you have it. America’s long-debated cold case may finally be closed.