As many as 7,000 dead bodies were found buried under a portion of the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus, the Clarion-Ledger reports.
The remains likely belong to the patients of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum, the state’s first mental institution that opened in 1855.
During construction in 2012, 66 bodies were uncovered.
“In size, they are fairly uniform,” the school wrote about the coffins that were uncovered. “About six feet long but alarmingly narrow, as if each held a pair of stilts instead of a human skeleton.”
In 2014, the newspaper reported that they found 1,000 more bodies when the school did radar testing in preparation for construction of a new parking garage for the dental school.
At this point, the school has uncovered more than double that figure, and an estimated 7,000 will likely be found total.
Paying an outside company to handle exhumations and reburials would cost $3,000 each, or up to $21 million, according to Newser.
Now the university is trying to figure out if it will invest in an 8-year effort that would cost closer to $3 million. They will likely create a memorial, and possibly a lab that would allow researchers to study the remains and gain insight into asylum living.
The asylum closed in 1935 — 20 years before the school opened.