Caresse Jackman

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Video: MSU Students and Faculty Studying Unearthed Bodies

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI)- Mississippi State University is playing a major role in unearthing some of the state’s history. Members of the archaeology department are helping remove and document several unmarked skeletal remains found in Jackson. Associate Professor Nicholas Herrmann says the grave site is believed to be the grounds of Mississippi’s old Insane Asylum.

“At this point we’ve got 66 graves identified of which we’ve recovered 22 of those and we’re gradually moving to remove those and be working down there in May. Right now, all of the remains have been adults. They are neatly laid out, row by row, coffin by coffin. They are likely buried without clothing or any adornment so that would be more consistent with what we think about when we look at the asylum as a potential source for these remains,” said Herrmann.

Last year, construction workers at University of Mississippi Medical Center broke ground, only to find old wooden coffins and bones.

“This individual is an adult female, a young adult female and we’re in the process of looking at these remains and looking for any pathological legions so this is where the graduates and under graduates are helping with the analysis and recording,” said Herrmann.

Amber Plemons is a graduate student at MSU and traveled down to Jackson to examine the site.

“I’ve excavated before but nothing with the institutionalized sample as this one and nothing with the types of coffins that we’ve had that way. You don’t really come up on cemeteries of this nature very often so the students in the department are very lucky to get that kind of experience,” said Plemons.

Herrmann and his team will study the remains for 2 years and hopefully their bones will tell the story.

“If we can build a biological profile, looking at their life history and understanding what the skeleton is telling us about them, hopefully we can look at their age, sex, gender and also understand their life history,” said Herrmann.

The state asylum opened in 1855 and closed in 1935. Herrmann says several people have contacted them about the remains. Right now, they don’t have a way of linking relatives to bodies but they are looking into DNA analysis later this year.