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Skeletal remains likely belonged to Amelia Earhart, scientist says

Amelia Earhart / Wikimedia Commons

Bones discovered on a Pacific island are likely the remains of international aviator Amelia Earhart, according to an anthropology professor at the University of Tennessee.

Richard L. Jantz used bone measurement analysis to determine that the skeletal remains, including a humerus, radius, tibia, fibula and both femora, found on Nikumaroro Island in 1940, match estimates of Amelia Earhart's bone lengths.

Earhart was more similar to the Nikumaroro bones than 99 percent of the individuals in a sample of 2,776 individuals, Jantz said in a research article.

"This strongly supports the conclusion that the Nikumaroro bones belonged to Amelia Earhart," he writes.

Jantz's analysis refutes an earlier assessment by Dr. D. W. Hoodless that the bones belonged to a middle-aged stocky male who was about 5 feet, 5 inches tall.

"When Hoodless conducted his analysis, forensic osteology was not yet a well-developed discipline. Evaluating his methods with reference to modern data and methods suggests that they were inadequate to his task; this is particularly the case with his sexing method. Therefore his sex assessment of the Nikumaroro bones cannot be assumed to be correct," the study's abstract reads.

The bones have since been lost, and Jantz's study was based on a collection of their measurements.

Their origins have long been a source of debate.

Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared on July 2, 1937, during a flight from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island in the Pacific as part of an attempt to fly around the world.

Speculation swirled around the disappearance of Earhart, who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Jantz's research supports the theory that the aviation pioneer died a castaway after landing her plane on Nikumaroro.

Jantz based his analysis on three main criteria, including the ratio of the femur's circumference to its length, the angle of the femur and pelvis, and the subpubic angle, which is formed between two pelvis bones and is wider in woman than in men.