7,000 bodies from ‘lunatic asylum’ discovered under university campus
The bodies are former patients and stretch across 20 acres (81,000 sq meters) of land under the university campus which is earmarked for future construction. Experts used ground penetrating radar to make the extraordinary find.
The graves were first discovered in 2013 when construction crews, working on a new road project, unearthed 66 unmarked graves on the campus, leading researchers to further survey the site.
Later, in 2015, during work on a campus parking garage, a further 1,000 bodies were discovered and shortly after another 1,000 were found just north of the construction site. Following further surveying, experts believe that the total number of bodies under the campus is closer to 7,000.
The University of Mississippi, or ‘Ole Miss’, now has a plan to exhume and rebury each body and create a memorial to the dead, along with a visitors center and a laboratory which would be used to study the remains and clothes and coffins from the period. The project, however, comes at a hefty price.
Initially it was thought that the cost of exhuming and reburying each corpse would be $3,000, taking the total to a staggering $21 million. Now the university is looking at another plan at a cost of $400,000 for at least eight years, bringing the total a substantially less $3.2 million.
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The Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum, later renamed the Mississippi State Insane Hospital, was the brainchild of civil war nurse Dorothea Dix. She strove for better conditions for the nation's mentally ill patients who, up until then, had been jailed and shunned by wider society.
The institution operated from 1855 to 1935, when it was moved to the present site of the Mississippi State Hospital. Construction didn’t begin on the university's medical center until almost two decades later, with Ole Miss opening its doors to its first students in 1955.