There are signs of progress everywhere at The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. It is odd that what is going on in the midst of such progress and advancements toward the future can all of a sudden throw open the door to the distant past.
Within the last couple of weeks, removal of about 4 feet of dirt in order to prepare this particular area for new construction uncovered about 24 previously unknown and unmarked graves.
Everywhere you see one of the marker flags there is a body beneath it. The theory is that these people died at the old Mississippi Asylum for the Insane that stood on this property from the mid 1800s until the early 1900s. UMMC was built where the old asylum once stood.
Derek Anderson, an archeologist at Mississippi State is one of the team working on the graves.
"We're guessing because there's no personal remains, no clothes, not even really any buttons or pins or anything, that they were probably residents of the asylum and either buried in a shroud or not buried with anything, so that would put them probably around in the mid to late 1800s to early 1900s," said Anderson.
The bodies are carefully removed from the coffins and taken to the Cobb Archeology Institute at Mississippi State and laid out and individually examined.
Dr. Nick Herrman, anthropologist at Mississippi State says the remains themselves can tell a lot about the circumstances of these people's lives.
"Yea, figure out when they were buried," said Dr. Herrman. "But also looking at the bones to give us information about what their lives were like in the asylum."
And when the research at State is finished, the remains will come back to UMMC. Nichole Reese says a special place is already there for them.
"When the university is done with it they will then file a burial permit with the Archives and History and the remains will be returned to us at UMMC and we will inter them in the UMMC Cemetery," said Reese.
They have always known there was a cemetery associated with the old asylum somewhere on the property, but no one knew for sure where it was. Now we know where part of it is, anyway.
And great care is being taken to treat with dignity the remains that have been found so far, and no doubt will be found in the future on the campus of UMMC in Jackson as it continues to progress.
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