Up to 2,000 Bodies Now Thought to be Buried at University of Mississippi
Up to 2,000 unmarked graves have been identified on the land, which is bisected by a roadway, officials said. The remains were discovered using ground-penetrating radar.
“We’ve always known there were graves on this site, many of them unmarked. It was really a matter of knowing how many and where,” University of Mississippi spokesman Jack Mazurak told Mississippi News Now.
Mazurak said that some of the graves came from the old Mississippi Lunatic Asylum, which operated on the grounds between 1855 and 1935. Other graves may be associated with an African American church, and a potter’s field for indigent people.
“We recognize that these are people’s relatives. We hear all the time, social media, people calling us up saying I had a grandmother who was at the insane asylum,” Mazurak told the station. “We recognize there is a direct connection to people today.”
The Clarion-Ledger reported that those buried on the plot could include tuberculosis patients, former slaves, and Civil War casualties.
Reburial is an expensive proposition, with university officials estimating the cost at approximately $3,000 per grave — up to $6 million total.
“We can’t afford that,” UM medical school dean Dr. James Keeton said, according to USA Today.
Experts think that future additions to the medical center and other buildings on campus may have to be reconsidered in light of the discovery.
About 66 graves were discovered during an archeological dig on the medical center campus last year. A road was constructed after the remains were removed for research.
“It matters to us to be able to exhume these people in a very respectful and ethical manner that’s very standardized,” Molly Zuckerman, assistant professor of anthropology at Mississippi State University said in a UMC release at the time. “The goal is to treat them respectfully and analyze them respectfully.”
The university plans to leave the remaining graves undisturbed.