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Forensic Anthropology Slide: researching the disappearance of Amelia Earhart

Forensic Anthropology Slide: researching the disappearance of Amelia Earhart

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  • 1. The Mystery of Amelia Earhart A Forensic View: Presenting Research from Dr. Karen Burns By Claire Bower
  • 2. Case Background
    • Amelia was a record-setting pilot blazing a trail for women everywhere. She disappeared on her second attempt at circumnavigating the globe on July 2nd, 1937. We have been searching for her ever since…
  • 3. Case Background
    • On June 1 st , 1937, almost 40 years old, Earhart departed from Miami with her navigator, Fred Noonan. Their planned flight would span 29,000 miles from start to finish.
  • 4. Case Background
    • With only 7,000 miles left to fly, Fred and Amelia started out from New Guinea to Howland Island, a small bit of land only 1 ½ miles long and ½ mile wide in the middle of the Pacific ocean.
  • 5. Case Background “ At 12:30 p.m. on July 2, the pair took off. Despite favorable weather reports, they flew into overcast skies and intermittent rain showers. This made Noonan's premier method of tracking, celestial navigation, impossible. As dawn neared, Earhart called chief radioman Leo G. Bellarts and asked for Itasca's location. She failed to report at the next scheduled time, and afterward her radio transmissions, irregular through most of the flight, were faint or interrupted with static. At 7:42 A.M. the Itasca picked up the message, "We must be on you, but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet." The ship tried to reply, but the plane seemed not to hear. At 8:45 Earhart reported, "We are running north and south." Nothing further was heard from Earhart.” © Family of Amelia Earhart c/o CMG Worldwide
  • 6. Howland Island
  • 7. Efforts to Rescue
    • According to National Geographic
    • News, over 3,000 people
    • were involved in
    • searching, ten ships,
    • 65 planes, and
    • $4,000,000 spent,
    • to no avail.
  • 8. Theories
    • The official U.S. position is that Earhart and Noonan ran out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific Ocean.
    • Another theory says the pair died as castaways on Nikumaroro, an uninhabited South Pacific Island.
    • Yet another theory claims they were captured while on a secret mission to the Japanese-controlled Marshall Islands in the North Pacific.
  • 9. Nikumororo
    • In 1991, TIGHAR conducted test excavations and found a surface scatter of shoe fragments consistent with the ones Amelia was wearing at the time of her disappearance.
  • 10. The Shoes The sole, heel, and eyelet. The heel dates to the mid-1930’s, the nail holes line up perfectly with the sole, which came from a woman’s blucher oxford, size 8 ½ to 9, the same shoe and size Amelia wore in the picture above ten days before she left on her last flight. She is pictured standing on the wing of her plane.
  • 11. The Tarawa Papers: 1940
    • In 1997, records of wireless transmissions were discovered that told of some interesting finds on Nikumororo.
    • Sextant box
    • Remains of fire with turtle and dead birds
    • Human Remains:
      • Skull
      • Lower Jaw
      • One Thoracic Vertebra
      • Half Pelvis
      • Part Scapula
      • Humerus
      • Radius
      • Two Femurs
      • Tibia
      • Fibula
  • 12. Chain of Possession
    • A man named Gallagher sent the bones to Fiji, they were intercepted by the medical officer on Tarawa, Dr. Lindsay Isaac, who pronounced them to be from an elderly Polynesian male.
    • They were then received by the Western Pacific High Commission in London and sent back to Fiji to be examined by Dr. Hoodless of the Central Medical School , whose report is as follows:
  • 13.  
  • 14. Why the Hoodless Report is Debunked by Burns & Jantz
  • 15.  
  • 16.  
  • 17.
    • What about measurements for sub-pubic angle? Femoral head?
    • What population database is he using, and is it appropriate for this specimen?
    • What about angle of sciatic notch, size of mastoid processes, rugosity of the occipital, shape/size of brow ridge, contour of frontal bone, other sex indicators?
  • 18.  
  • 19.  
  • 20.  
  • 21. Reanalysis Using FORDISC
    • Using Dr. Hoodless’ measurements, Burns and Jantz conducted separate analyses, creating their own profiles but coming to the same conclusions:
    • Ancestry: More likely European than Polynesian, most similar to Norse females.
    • Sex: Most likely female with low certainty.
    • Stature: If female, between 5’6” and 5’7”.
  • 22. Nikumororo Scavengers
    • The Coconut Crab
    • Lives 30 years or longer, lifts up to 64 pounds, eats meat.
    In a telegram to his superiors dated October 17, 1940 (see The Bones Chronology ), the colonial officer who found the bones, Gerald Gallagher, wrote: All small bones have been removed by giant coconut crabs which have also damaged larger ones. Difficult to estimate age bones owing to activities of crabs but am quite certain they are not less than four years old and probably much older.
  • 23. References
        • http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/12/1215_031215_ameliaearhart.html
        • http://www.ameliaearhart.com/about/photos.html
        • http://www.tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Photo_Gallery/photolist.html
        • http://www.tighar.org/Projects/Earhart/Bulletins/46_Crabexperiment/46_crabexp.html
        • Amelia Earhart’s Bones and Shoes?
        • Current Anthropological Perspectives on an Historical Mystery
        • Karen Ramey Burns, Richard L. Jantz, Thomas F. King, and Richard E. Gillespie