Archaeologists Finish Scanning Three Sites In Search Of 1921 Mass Graves In Tulsa

Thursday, October 17th 2019, 7:01 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

After spending nearly two weeks searching for possible mass graves connected to the 1921 Race Massacre, archaeologists have left Tulsa.

They plan to be back in a few weeks to search another location.

Thursday’s work focused on one of the streets within the cemetery. The city said that is because the grandson of a former caretaker of the cemetery came forward to the Public Oversight Committee with a story about victims possibly being buried where the one of the streets is now.

Researchers said most of the southwest corner of the cemetery has been searched with the archaeologists’ technology. Archaeologists said they went beyond the original plans for coverage, in an effort to not miss anything.

The team also took the time to map out the areas they scanned. They did that so they have a reference point to bring them back exactly where they were in case any excavations happen.

While in Tulsa the group spent most of its time at Oaklawn Cemetery, but also went to Newblock Park and a nearby homeless encampment.

"It's been interesting, for sure. We've gotten a lot accomplished,” Oklahoma Archaeological Survey Senior Researcher Scott Hammerstedt said. “We've covered a lot of ground. I feel good about that."

The next location to search will be Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens Cemetery, which is expected to happen sometime next month. Hammerstedt said he had the chance to visit that cemetery while he was in town.

He said that search area will be much smaller than the other locations and comes with its own challenges.

"Part of it's complicated. There's an area it's in the trees, there's a lot of obstacles to work around. So that will slow us down,” Hammerstedt said.

The archaeologists have other projects to work on before they head back to Tulsa, but they will be processing data they collected whenever they have the time.

The city should receive the results by December or January.

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