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Bones found nearly 80 years ago on a remote South Pacific island are very likely those of aviator Amelia Earhart, a researcher says.

The bones found in 1940 "have more similarity to Earhart than to 99 percent of individuals in a large reference sample," said a statement released by the University of Tennessee, where anthropology professor Richard Jantz did his new forensic analysis.

The university says that in 1940, physician D. W. Hoodless conducted seven measurements on the human remains and concluded they belonged to a man. The bones, discovered by a British expedition on the island of Nikumaroro, were later discarded.

But Jantz re-examined the bone measurements and he obtained precise measurements of the aviator's humerus and radius lengths from a photograph as well as measurements of her clothing.

Jantz concluded that "until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers."

The new study is published in the journal Forensic Anthropology.

Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared on July 2, 1937, while flying over the Pacific Ocean during Earhart's attempt to become the first female aviator to fly around the globe. They vanished without a trace, spurring the largest and most expensive search and rescue effort by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard in American history. They were declared dead two years later, but the wreckage was never found.

The disappearance of Earhart and Noonan on July 2, 1937, in the Western Pacific Ocean has been the subject of continuing searches, research and debate.

A longstanding theory is that the famed pilot ran out of gas and crashed into deep ocean waters northwest of Howland Island, a tiny speck in the South Pacific that she and Noonan missed.


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