The remains of bushranger Ned Kelly have been identified 131 years after he was hanged for murder.

Scientists identified the bones by using DNA from the iconic outcast's great great nephew – although his skull has still not been found. 

"To think a group of scientists could identify the body of a man who was executed more than 130 years ago, moved and buried in a haphazard fashion among 33 other prisoners, most of whom are not identified, is amazing," Victoria's state Attorney-General Robert Clark said.

An iconic figure in Australian history, Kelly was sentenced to death over his gang's killing of three policemen. He was hanged in Melbourne Gaol on November 11, 1880 and buried in Melbourne Gaol.

But when the gaol closed in 1929, the bones of prisoners, including Kelly, were re-buried in a a mass grave near Pentridge Prison.

The mass grave was excavated in 2009 as researchers wanted to find Kelly's bones.

"Kelly has remained a consistent icon of Australia and Australian bush life, so therefore it has a high level of significance from the Australian community because it's part of its cultural heritage," Deputy Director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine David Ranson told Reuters.

"From a point of view of Australian culture there's always been this dichotomy of Ned Kelly the police killer and the folk hero at a time of unrest and tensions."

It is not known what happened to Kelly's skull, although it could have been separated from his bones during the transfer to the mass grave.