Professor is "99-percent sure" missing bones belong to Amelia Earhart

In this June 6, 1937, file photo, Amelia Earhart, the American airwoman who is flying round the world for fun, arrived at Port Natal, Brazil, and took off on her 2,240-mile flight across the South Atlantic to Dakar, Africa. (AP Photo, File)
INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - An anthropology professor say remains found on a remote Pacific atoll in the 1940's are "99 percent likely" the bones of Amelia Earhart.

The legendary aviator and her navigator, Fred Noonan, departed from Purdue University on an around-the-world flight attempt, but vanished over the Pacific on July 2, 1937.

When the bones were found on Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro, in 1940, an expert said they belonged to a middle-aged man.

But University of Tennessee anthropology professor Richard Jantz now believes they were Earhart's.

"These bones are much more similar to Amelia Earhart than they are to anyone else,'' Jantz told Joe Fryer on NBC's TODAY Thursday.

Jantz hasn't examined the bones, which have been lost. He based his assessment on photographs of Earhart and the recorded measurements of the bones.

University of Tennessee anthropology professor Richard Jantz believes bones found in 1940 were Amelia Earhart's. (Image courtesy TODAY)

Jantz estimated the length of Earhart's humerus and radius from a photograph, extrapolating the bone size from an oil can she was holding.

He based the length of her tibia by the inseam of her pants. Jantz claims that it's "99 percent likely" they are Earhart's bones.

"If these bones are not Amelia Earhart, the person to whom they do belong just happened to be very similar to her, and that's unlikely,'' Jantz told TODAY.

Jantz's theory supports other historians who believe Earhart survived on Nikumaroro as a castaway after her plane went down.

Researchers found part of a woman's shoe and a box that carried navigation gear on the island atoll, but have never located Earhart's airplane.