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7,000 Bodies Buried Under University Of Mississippi

First Posted: May 11, 2017 04:10 AM EDT

Over 7,000 people are believed to be buried beneath the University of Mississippi. Officials say that the bodies from the state's first mental institution were said to stretch across 20 acres of the campus, where administrators first wanted to build university facilities.

The Insane Asylum, as the mental institution was called, was completed in 1855. According to Fox News, it was built to move the mentally ill from chains in jails to better living conditions. However, life in the institution remained harsh. In fact, one in five of the 1,376 patients who were admitted between 1855 and 1877 died. During the peak of its operations after the U.S. Civil War, it housed up to 6,000 patients at a time. Eventually, in 1935, the facility moved to its present location of the State Hospital at Whitfield.

Upon the beginning of a campus road construction in 2013, the University of Mississippi school officials discovered 66 coffins. By 2014, around 1,000 more were found during the construction of a parking garage. Today, there were believed to be around 7,000 coffins in the area.

Exhuming and reburying the bodies would cost the university $3,000 for each, running up costs of up to $21 million. In looking for cheaper alternatives, the university opted to handle exhumations in-house. According to the Clarion Ledger (via USA Today), doing so could bring the total cost down to $400,000 per year over the course of eight years.

Along these lines, the university also wished to create a memorial and a laboratory where students can study the remains of the patients. The remnants to be studied included their clothes and some wood.

BBC News noted that a group of academics also formed a consortium dedicated to studying the unearthed remains. Ralph Didlake, overseer for the university's Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, noted that they "inherited these patients," so they should show care and respect for them.

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