Study: Bones found on Pacific island in 1940 are likely Amelia Earhart's


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/03/08/study-bones-found-on-pacific.html


#2

forensic specialists of the past were blinded to the physical reality of athletic women by the presumptions of the era. The bones were previously deemed too manly to be those of a high-society lady

What? There are clear skeletal markers distinguishing the sexes (the pelvis in particular). Was the thinking that Earhart specifically couldn’t have been this stoutly built but some other woman could…?


#3

And the reason for not doing a genetic test is???

ETA: Right, the bones are gone now and all we have are measurements. Having read the opening part of the PDF, I am now shaking my head that in 2018 it is still necessary to slowly and painfully demonstrate that the conclusions of forensic anthropology done before the era of genetic testing are rife with errors in sexing bones, both from bad algorithms heuristics and from bias on the part of the investigators.

eta: suddenly realized I was using the wrong word.


#4

Pacific Island? Then why was her car recently found parked in Los Angeles? It’s all a conspiracy of cover-ups!


#5

Good science, good logic, and the “true believers” will never accept it. Just like the idiots who keep digging on Oak Island, despite all evidence proving that the initial treasure claims were just a hoax story, designed to sell newspapers.


#6

I think the bones were lost, but they were extensively measured before that.


#7

We’ll just have to wait for the aliens to get back…


#8

They were “discarded”… Like 99% of the other Amelia evidence.

The Amelia Earhart mystery is the USA’s version of Egypt’s “scan pyramids.”


#9

It’s more complicated than that.

I once caught a rant by an anthropologist who explained at length that many of the assumed differences were identified using a limited sampling of skeletons consisting of Europeans from the middle ages. Those differences do not apply as well the broader population.

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-Human-Male-and-Female-Skeleton


#10

Aliens…

Pesky aliens…


#11

Thanks, but in the link you provided 3 out of 4 contributors (2 out of 3, if you count qualified replies) basically say that with a skull and a pelvis, you can distinguish the two fairly reliably. Seriously - a pelvis that needs to squeeze a baby through is going to look different from one that doesn’t. Earhart was of a European descent so ethnic miscalibration shouldn’t be a factor. And the prevalence of AIS is >0.01%


#12

There are ‘clear’ some skeletal markers distinguishing the sexes

, however they are not always unambiguous.

Source: have worked at lots of archaeological digs.


#13

I wonder what happened to those bones?


#14

I don’t believe it is her. If she had died on that island in mid-1937 I think the settlers would’ve seen traces of her, her plane, or her navigator when they started to arrive on the island in 1938-1939. A few bones that might be hers is not enough to satisfy my skepticism. What about their other belongings, and the plane? Plus, the US Navy had planes search over that island a few days after she was lost. Wouldn’t she have been smart enough to put some signals on the beach for the planes to see, even if she had already died? And if she was on that island she probably would’ve still been alive and probably would’ve thought it important enough to wave at the planes overhead, but they didn’t see anyone. Finding a small island like Nikumaroro in the ocean is difficult even in the day. Much more likely that the plane went down in the water.


#15

Like most things in life, it depends.

In particular

The android pelvis is a female pelvis with masculine features, including a wedge or heart shaped inlet caused by a prominent sacrum and a triangular anterior segment.


#16

Last known to be at the medical school in Fiji in 1940, where Dr. Hoodless made the measurements of them. They really just disappear after that. And yes, people have looked extensively for them or evidence of their whereabouts in recent years.


#17

… are likely her’s.

ouch!


#18

I imagine that the planes of the period required a bit of muscle to control in rough weather. I don’t think they had hydraulic-assist in that era.


#19

The first section of the paper discusses at length all the many ways that the bones in question could have been misidentified by an analyst back in the 1940’s, either from bias (documented cases of anthropologists working with a 50/50 population of bones but they end up assigning a lot of female remains as male) or because the sex assignment heuristics available in the 40’s were poor (based on limited or bad sampling, or mixing demographic groups with wildly different average height profiles into one bucket).

Today, forensic anthropologists have sex assignment heuristics based on data sets that could only have been assembled in the age of computers, and they can validate those against genetic testing of bones so we know how well they work. Back then, none of that was so.

edit: grammar and clarity.
edit 2: fix stupid mistake. heuristics, not algorithms.


#20

As others pointed out, it isn’t always clear in humans, however, some other animals make it easier to tells sexes via bones.