By Tim Binnall
Skull fragments found at a museum in Kiribati may lead to a resolution in the mystery of Amelia Earhart's fate. The pieces of bone were found during this past summer's much-heralded National Geographic expedition to the uninhabited island of Nikumaroro. While much of the press surrounding the project centered around the participation of oceanographer Robert Ballard, who famously found the wreckage of the Titanic, it would seem that a visit to the National Museum of Kiribati yielded the most promising clue from the search.
It was there that Dr. Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist with National Geographic, and forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle reportedly noticed some skull fragments that had been left on a shelf in storage and seemingly forgotten about for decades. Based on the aged appearance of the bone pieces, the researchers suspected that they may have been human remains which were discovered in 1940 on Nikumaroro, briefly studied by an expert, and ultimately lost shortly thereafter.
Fortunately, Kimmerle was able to take possession of the pieces for further analysis and managed to reconstruct as much of the skull as possible. The curious cranium was revealed to the public for the first time today as part of a teaser for a forthcoming National Geographic special about this past summer's expedition which is set to air on Sunday night. On the program, Kimmerle will share her forensic analysis of the bones, including what she believes to be the gender, age, and ancestry of the individual who 'contributed' the remains.
Additional DNA testing on the bones could yield insights into the original owner of the skull and whether or not that person was Amelia Earhart. Should the results point in the direction that the bones were from the legendary aviatrix, the findings would appear to confirm that she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, crashed on Nikumuro and ultimately perished there. However, given how elusive the answer to the Earhart mystery has been up until this point, it's probably a safe bet that we'll still be speculating about what became of the duo after the TV special airs this weekend.