Nearly 7,000 bodies reportedly buried under University of Mississippi Medical Center campus

Officials estimate the bodies of nearly 7,000 former patients treated by Mississippi's first psychiatric institution are buried across a 20-acre stretch of land that now belongs to the Jackson-based University of Mississippi Medical Center, according to The Clarion-Ledger.

Officials surveyed the land with an underground radar in preparation for potential construction before discovering the coffins.

Exhuming and reburying each body would reportedly cost the medical center nearly $21 million in total. However, officials are considering exhuming the bodies in-house, a project that would cost roughly $400,000 per year for a minimum of eight years. 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.

Officials previously unearthed more than 2,000 coffins, in total, while constructing a road and a parking garage on the medical center's campus in 2013 and 2014, according to the report.

The original psychiatric institution was built in 1855. Following the end of the Civil War, the facility expanded to house approximately 300 patients. The surrounding area reportedly became known as "Asylum Hill" and included neighboring houses, a school and a church for former slaves. At its peak, the asylum held nearly 6,000 patients, according to the report.

In 1935, the state relocated the mental institution to Whitfield, Miss., and rebranded it the Mississippi State Hospital. Officials began construction on UMMC at the institution's previous location during the 1950s, according to the report.

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