An investigation has uncovered that more than 7000 human bodies are buried beneath the 20-acer land belonging to the University of Mississippi Medical Center Campus. This was the site of the first mental institution in the state and the 100-year-old bodies are believed to belong to the former members of the said institution. Authorities of the Mississippi University are now planning to dig up the bodies for scientific analysis.

How were the bodies discovered?

Construction workers discovered 66 coffins back in 2013 during renovation work. However, when construction began in 2014, radar imagery revealed another 1,000 coffins underground at first and later that number went up to 2,000.

Current estimates suggest that the total buried bodies may well be close to 7,000.

These bodies most likely belong to inmates who were kept in the “Insane Asylum,” as the mental institution was called, between 1855 and 1935. It is a known fact that within the 80 years of its existence, the “Insane Asylum” housed around 35,000 patients. So, it comes as no surprise that those of the patients who perished were buried in the grounds of the asylum.

University authorities also stated that it would likely cost around $3,000 to exhume and then rebury each of the bodies. To follow similar procedures for all 7,000 bodies would cost an astronomical $21 million for the Mississippi University. To prevent such high costs, the university has decided to use in-house staff for the dig.

Though the progress will be slow, officials predict it will cost $400,000 annually and will take around eight years to dig up all the bodies.

The authorities also stated that it would find other spots for developmental projects and will leave this cemetery as it is. It will also create a memorial for all the dead patients and will develop a visitor’s center as well, reported the Clarion Ledger.

A science lab will also be constructed to analyze the dug up dead bodies.

What are scientists looking to determine from the bodies?

Scientific analysis of the remains dug up from the site will likely present researchers with clues regarding the identity of each body. The university plans to share the names of these dead patients so that any living family can come forward and claim the bodies.

Apart from this, scientists will also try to determine the overall health of these former patients and check whether they were properly nourished or not. Another route of study will be to look for signs of pellagra, which is a disease caused by Vitamin B deficiency.