Archaeologists Begin Searching Newblock Park for Possible Mass Graves

Tuesday, October 15th 2019, 7:46 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

Archaeologists searched a new location Tuesday in the effort to find possible mass graves from the 1921 Race Massacre.

The area being searched at Newblock Park is much smaller than the area at Oaklawn Cemetery, but archeologists still plan to spend another day searching on Wednesday.

The crew spent time with a Tulsa Police officer Tuesday, showing him how to use the equipment law enforcement will sometimes use.

Archaeologists also searched an area near Newblock Park Friday, October 11th.

The area is very small, just west of downtown along the Arkansas River. Historic researcher Betsy Warner said that area was searched because of a theory that victims from the race massacre could have been dumped on sandbars where the railroad tracks are along the Arkansas River.

"It was a very small area in a homeless encampment. So we went out on Friday, just about an hour, hour and a half. We just didn't think it was safe for a bunch of people to come tromping around back there and basically moving into someone's backyard for a couple hours. So we went in real quick and just got it done,” Oklahoma Archaeological Survey Senior Researcher Scott Hammerstedt said.

There has been a lot more disruption to the land over the years at Newblock Park, than there has been at Oaklawn Cemetery.

Newblock Park used to be the site of the city's landfill and incinerator at least 50 years ago. The levees and a sewage lift station were added in the 40s.

Archaeologists are searching near the railroad tracks on the southern side of the park. Hammerstedt said the metal in the tracks shouldn't be a problem for their technology and noted other differences at the park.

“It’s a lot quieter. There’s not as much traffic. I don’t anticipate the same level of problems we were having with Bluetooth and everything at the other location. So, I think it’s a little more out of the way, a little less visible,” Hammerstedt said.

The plan is for the team to go back to Oaklawn later this week to use their radar to search under the streets within the cemetery.

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