Search Asylum Hill Project
In 2012 construction crews on the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) campus discovered human remains buried on the site where they were constructing a new road. Work on the road was halted while archaeologists from the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University, under the direction of Nicholas P. Herrmann, carefully excavated what turned out to be 66 sets of remains with bone fragments from two other burials. While there was institutional awareness that a small cemetery had once existed on the edges of University of Mississippi Medical Center campus in Jackson, Mississippi, the presence of so many graves in a relatively small area prompted UMMC to do further archaeological studies.
Between 2013 and 2014, UMMC partnered with the Center for Archaeological Research at Ole Miss and the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at Mississippi State University to conduct a survey of the area using state-of-the-art digital imaging and other techniques to help determine how many additional graves there might be in the area.
The surprising results showed that there were an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 graves in an area at the northeastern end of UMMC’s current campus.The sheer number of graves buried in a specific pattern indicated they most, if not all, were likely graves of those who had died at the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum (renamed the Mississippi State Hospital for the Insane in 1901) which had been located on the site while it was in operation from 1855 to 1935. Throughout this process the Asylum Hill Research Consortium was formed to oversee and guide the project. The members immediately recognized the importance of finding out more about the lives of human beings interred on the site with these goals in mind:
Studies done by researchers since 2014 on the remains now housed at the Cobb Institute of Archaeology at MSU include:
On July 15, 1992, human remains were uncovered by a contractor while excavating a ditch for the steam line to a new laundry facility on campus. The gravesite discoveries were highlighted in two articles in the Clarion Ledger dated July 18 and 22, 1992. Ultimately, the decision was made to excavate the 44 gravesites, some of which had markers, and to set aside property belonging to UMMC as a cemetery plot to reinter the remains. On Nov. 8, 1994, a consecration ceremony was held at the site of the cemetery where the remains were reinterred. Below is a list of headstone inscriptions from Asylum Hill Cemetery.
In 2018, the Mississippi State Legislature passed laws to allow for the respectful exhumation of the estimated 7,000 bodies buried on campus. With an anticipated start date of Summer 2022, the Asylum Hill Research Consortium will oversee the removal of the remains which will then be temporarily housed at a UMMC temperature-controlled facility until plans for a memorial and research facility are finalized.The temporary archival facility has: