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Archaeologist, author to discuss Amelia Earhart mystery

By Alec Jennings
University News Service
November 4, 2009

Tom King

Thomas F. King

Much interest and speculation have revolved around the disappearance of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and her colleague Fred Noonan in 1937.

Thomas F. King, an author and senior archaeologist for the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), will give a talk at Texas State University-San Marcos, Taylor-Murphy Hall, room 101, Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.

TIGHAR is an interdisciplinary scientific research team that has been working since 1989 to find answers to Earhart's mysterious disappearance. King’s talk will review the history of the efforts to find out what happened to Earhart. He will also discuss his novel Thirteen Bones, which tells the Earhart story from a human perspective based on the data and evidence collected.

Stephen Black, professor, Department of Anthropology, said King's talent as a writer and speaker, along with his perspective of a professional approach to researching the mystery made him a good choice to address Texas State students.

"Lots of wild speculation and minimally-researched work has been generated by many different Earhart enthusiasts since the 1940s, but the TIGHAR group has taken an interdisciplinary, fact-based approach to solving the mystery," Black said. "King worked in the Pacific decades ago with his wife, a culture anthropologist. He brought both cultural familiarity with the region and an archaeologist’s perspective to the project."

Lynn Denton, director of the Public History Program said there are several reasons why the Earhart mystery has resonated with the public and has endured for so many years. King's talk, she said, will offer the audience a good perspective of the systematic work historians and archeologists undertake to answer research questions and how convoluted the pathways they follow can oftentimes be.

"The public has always been fascinated with historical narratives that don’t have an ending. When you combine the record-breaking 'firsts' of Amelia Earhart’s life with the mystery of her disappearance, you have a very compelling story," Denton said. "I would also add that she is one of the heroic figures that young girls are encouraged to read about, and for many women, her biography was one of the earliest they remember reading."

In addition to the talk, King will be speaking to the Cultural Resource Management seminar (Anthropology 5334 and History 5375C) as well as leading a professional development workshop at the River Center on Friday Nov. 13, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pre-registration is required to attend the workshop. The cost is $60 for students and $125 for cultural resource management professionals. Individuals interested in attending the workshop can register at http://www.txstate.edu/anthropology/cas/.

King's visit to Texas State is sponsored by the Public History Program and the Department of Anthropology.