Last Updated Mar 8, 2018 6:42 PM EST
A new forensic analysis indicates that bones found on a remote South Pacific island in 1940 are very likely those of legendary American aviator Amelia Earhart, according to a researcher at the University of Tennessee. A statement released by the university says the analysis showed that the bones "have more similarity to Earhart than to 99 percent of individuals in a large reference sample."
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 UT anthropology professor Richard Jantz -- using "modern quantitative techniques" -- re-examined the bone measurements. The university says Jantz used a computer program he co-created that estimates gender, ancestry, and stature from skeletal measurements. The researcher obtained precise measurements of Earhart'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 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.
Last July, a Japanese military history buff apparently undermined a new theory that Earhart survived a crash-landing in the Pacific Ocean.
The history blogger posted the same photograph that formed the backbone of a History channel documentary that aired on Sunday that argued that Earhart was alive in July 1937 - but the book the photo was in was apparently published two years before the famed aviator disappeared.
The undated black-and-white photo is of a group of people standing on a dock on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands. One of the people seems to be a slim woman with her back to the camera.
The documentary argued that it proved Earhart, along with her navigator Fred Noonan, landed in 1937 in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands, where they were picked up by the Japanese military and held prisoner. The two-hour show drew a strong 4.32 million viewers, the biggest audience on cable for the week, according to The Nielsen Company.