I see by the papers, as it were, that a scientist in British Columbia is going to try to identify bone fragments believed to be those of Amelia Earhart by using DNA technology. Earhart went missing in July of 1937 and was presumably killed along with navigator Fred Noonan during their attempt to fly around the world along the equator. Their bodies were never found, but bone fragments that were found on a Pacific island late last year are being examined at the University of Oklahoma to determine if they are the remains of Earhart. A story published today by The Canadian Press reported that a forensic archeologist at Fraser University in Vancouver is going to try to recover Earhart’s DNA from envelopes that contained letters written by Earhart. The letters were opened at the ends, so the flaps are intact. The premise of the study is that Earhart probably licked those flaps in order to seal the envelopes and that DNA from her saliva may still be present.

This news breaks while I’m in the midst of reading a recent biography of Earhart by Kathleen C. Winters. I’ll probably post a review here in a few days.

From a practical point of view, it may not matter very much whether those bones are Earhart’s or not. As there always are in such cases, there are folks who want to believe that the explanation for her disappearance is more complicated than that her plane went down, but there is no evidence to support them. On the other hand, anyone with a sense of history hates stories with missing conclusions. So a definitive finding that those bones belonged to Amelia Earhart would serve two purposes – putting unfounded theories to rest and putting the period to an historical epoch.



Inquiring minds etc.

June 3, 2009



One of the curiosities of American history is that no one has ever figured out who was the mother of William Franklin. We know the father well enough – Benjamin Franklin, one of the geniuses of the American Revolution. But Ben wasn’t married to Billy’s mom, and though he took good care of the boy until they split over questions of loyalty or rebellion, the old man never let slip the mother’s name. No scholar has been able to unravel the mystery.

But that’s cheap cheese compared to what the Egyptians are monkeying around with — trying to determine who was the father of King Tutankhamun. That’s been the subject of speculation at least since the king’s tomb was uncovered in 1922, but now Egyptian scholars are using DNA samples from the mummy to narrow the parentage down — presumably to either Akhenaten or Amenhotep III. 




Meanwhile, there has been some controversy over a bust of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti — a contemporary of King Tut’s — whose reputed good looks have been the source of fascination for centuries. Swiss art historian Henri Stierlin wrote in a book published this spring that the statue is a copy dating only from 1912. Worse yet, German scientists earlier this year speculated that the sculptor of the original bust may have smoothed out creases around the queen’s mouth and straightened out her bumpy nose. 

If these intimate secrets aren’t safe after 3300 years, what chance has Adam Lambert got?