Bones discovered on a Pacific Island in the 1940s, which are most probably those of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, went unidentified for decades because researchers thought they were of a man, an anthropologist has claimed in a new paper.

Misidentification Of Bones

Around three years after Earhart disappeared, in the course of which she was declared lost at sea, human bones were found on the Nikumaroro Island, which is a part of Kiribati's Phoenix Islands. In 1941, Fiji's Central Medical School Principal Dr. D.W. Hoodless, examined the bones and came to the conclusion that they belonged to a male.

A forensic analysis published in Forensic Anthropology has, however, concluded that Hoodless's conclusion that the mysterious bones were those of a stocky, middle-aged male with a height of about 5 feet, 5.5 inches is most probably incorrect.

Why Is New Forensic Model Better Than The 1941 Model

Richard Jantz, who is a professor emeritus of anthropology at the Forensic Anthropology Center, University of Tennessee, used a new forensic model to find out who the mysterious bones actually belonged to. 

Forensic osteology was not a discipline that was well-developed when Hoodless carried out his analysis, according to Jantz. The professor, therefore, added that Hoodless's identification methods should not be blamed because it was a case of misidentification, in addition to the science of humans being a field of poor understanding at that point.

Jantz said comparing the methods of Hoodless with reference to modern methods and data indicates that they were inadequate for the task at hand, especially where gender identification was involved. Hoodless's assessment of the Nikumaroro bones as being those of a man, therefore, cannot be assumed to be correct, according to the professor.

"To address the question of whether the Nikumaroro bones match estimates of Amelia Earhart’s bone lengths, I compare Earhart’s bone lengths with the Nikumaroro bones using Mahalanobis distance," said Jantz.

"The Mahalanobis distance is one of the most common measures in chemometrics, or indeed multivariate statistics," according to a paper in the Journal of Chemometrics. "It can be used to determine whether a sample is an outlier, whether a process is in control or whether a sample is a member of a group or not."

There is, however, no doubt that conspiracy theories regarding the disappearance of Earhart will continue to gain momentum in spite of the new evidence.

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