According to a report in The Clarion-Ledger, experts estimate around 7,000 bodies could be buried under the campus of the United States university, legacies of an era in which a mental asylum stood where UMMC now is.
According to the report, Dr Ralph Didlake, who oversees UMMC's Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, believes the lab would be the first of its kind in the nation - giving researchers insight into life in the asylum in the 1800s and early 1900s. Officials also said they aim to create a memorial, a visitor's center and a laboratory where researchers could study the patients' remains, as well as remnants of their clothing and the coffins, according to the report.
In 1935, MS moved the asylum to the present location of the State Hospital at Whitfield.
The newspaper in 2014 reported a subsequent 1,000 were found when the school did radar testing in preparation for the construction of a parking garage in a wooded area near the dental school. Furthermore, they say that underground radar revealed that their coffins stretch 20 acres across campus where the school wants to develop.
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'It would be a unique resource for Mississippi, ' Molly Zuckerman, associate professor in Mississippi State University's Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, told The Clarion-Ledger. "It would make MS a national center on historical records relating to health in the pre-modern period, particularly those being institutionalized". School officials have wanted to build over some of these acres but now face $3,000 to exhume and rebury each body if they decide to construct. At the time, experts said there may be more coffins somewhere on the site. Current estimates now place the total number of coffins buried beneath the campus at approximately 7,000. This would make it possible to identify living family members who may come forward.
Before the asylum, the mentally ill were usually held in chains in jails or attics, Dr. Luke Lampton, chairman of the Mississippi Board of Health, told the newspaper.
She is willing to donate her own DNA to see if it matches her great-great-great grandfather Isham Earnest.
School officials have ran into an issue in exhuming the bodies: cost.
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