The mystery surrounding Amelia Earhart’s 1937 disappearance may finally be solved.
Richard Jantz, professor emeritus of anthropology and director emeritus of University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center, says that he is 99% positive that seven bones discovered on the Pacific island of Nikumaroro in 1940 were likely Earhart’s remains, PEOPLE reports.
“Until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers,” Jantz said in a statement.
Jantz’s conclusion contradicts a forensic analysis of the remains in 1941 conducted by physician D. W. Hoodless that described the bones as belonging to a “short, stocky, muscular European” male, according to the New York Post. Jantz, however, claims that modern forensic analysis techniques would have delivered different results.
“When Hoodless conducted his analysis, forensic osteology was not yet a well-developed discipline,” Jantz explains in a new study published in the journal Forensic Anthropology. “There are many examples of erroneous assessments by anthropologists of the period. We can agree that Hoodless may have done as well as most analysts of the time could have done, but this does not mean his analysis was correct.”
Jantz came to his conclusion that the bones likely belong to Earhart after studying Hoodless’ data and discovering that the bones have more similarity to Earhart than to 99% of individuals in a reference sample of 2,776 people.
The celebrated aviator and women’s rights symbol disappeared during a flight from Papau New Guinea to Howland Island in the Pacific with navigator Fred Noonan on July 2, 1937. Earhart, who became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, was attempting to fly around the world.
In the nearly 100 years since her disappearance, a number of theories have emerged about her fate.
In November, a theory claiming that Earhart and Noonan were taken prisoner and then killed on the island of Saipan arose after a Chamorro man named William Sablan told The Pacific Daily News that his uncle Tun Akin Tuho worked at a prison on the island of Saipan in the 1930s. Sablan said his uncle told him stories of how an American man and woman were brought to the prison after being found with a crashed plane on a small Pacific Island under Japanese control. The theory was supported by records matching the story.
Another theory suggested that Earhart and Noonan had survived the crash landing and been living on the Marshall Islands. The theory arose after an image surfaced showing a woman resembling Earhart and a man who appeared to be her navigator.