Archaeologists Return To Previously Searched Cemetery In Effort To Find Possible Mass Graves

Wednesday, October 16th 2019, 7:46 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

Oklahoma Archaeological Survey Senior Researcher Scott Hammerstedt returned to Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery Wednesday in a continued search for possible mass graves linked to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. 

The archaeologists from the University of Oklahoma along with a forensic science specialist from the state medical examiner's office searched a part of Oaklawn Cemetery they couldn’t get to last week.

Hammerstedt’s team also re-scanned part of the southern edge of the cemetery using a tool called a gradiometer. Hammerstedt’s team had to borrow the equipment from the University of Arkansas after their own gradiometer stopped working.

"Our gradiometer, which detects subtle magnetic anomalies, decided on the second day at Oaklawn last week that it didn't want to turn on anymore, so it's getting ready to go into the shop,” said Hammerstedt. “We managed to borrow one from the Arkansas Archaeological Survey for the rest of this week."

Hammerstedt’s team started their day at Newblock Park, west of downtown Tulsa. The search area there was fairly small.

The work at Newblock ended today after a full day of searching on Tuesday. Newblock Park has seen plenty of development over the years, including the levees built there in the 1940s.

Hammerstedt described what his equipment found during the search at Newblock Park.

"Well, we can definitely say there's lots of metal. I think it's probably pipes running through a good chunk of the area we've been working in," said Hammerstedt.

The City of Tulsa told said the last day of work for Hammerstedt’s team is likely Thursday, October 17. 

The team expects to return to Tulsa next month with plans to search Tulsa’s Rolling Oaks Cemetery. Dates for that site have not been determined.

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