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November 02, 2016

Philly-area group says new evidence may show what happened to Amelia Earhart

Researchers say new findings suggest aviator died a castaway

History Mysteries
Amelia Earhart Source/AP

Aviator Amelia Earhart lifts herself from the cockpit of her airplane after completing a transcontinental flight in Oakland, California, on June 6, 1931.

A historical research group based in the Philadelphia suburbs claims it has found new evidence that could help explain what happened to famed aviator Amelia Earhart, who mysteriously disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, based in Oxford, Chester County, said on its website in late October that recently uncovered files suggest that Earhart died as a castaway on a remote island, not in a plane crash.

According to the researchers, British authorities previously dismissed skeletal remains discovered in 1940 on Nikumaroro, a remote island in the western Pacific, because they were ruled to be male.

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But TIGHAR says it was able to obtain those original British files and sent them to forensic anthropologists. Per TIGHAR:

The bones were subsequently lost and the entire incident forgotten until TIGHAR discovered the original British files in 1998, including the skeletal measurements the doctor made. An evaluation of those measurements by forensic anthropologists Karen Burns, Ph.D. and Richard Jantz, Ph.D. led to the conclusion that “the morphology of the recovered bones, insofar as we can tell by applying contemporary forensic methods to measurements taken at the time, appears consistent with a female of Earhart’s height and ethnic origin.”

The group acknowledged in a statement that the discovery does not necessarily prove that Earhart died on the island but said, "it is a significant new data point that tips the scales further in that direction."

As TIGHAR noted, others have theorized that Earhart died in a plane crash after she vanished on June 2, 1937, during an attempted round-the-world flight.

Earhart was considered an aviation pioneer, paving the way for other female pilots.