Search Crews Find Non-Human Skeletal Remain At Oaklawn Cemetery

Tuesday, July 14th 2020, 6:23 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

TULSA, Okla. -

During the second day of the test excavation search for possible mass graves from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the team of experts working at the site said they discovered non-human skeletal remains.

The team found several cow ribs, and a cow tibia.

While there were no human remains, State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said the cow bones could be a good sign.

"The fact that we actually do have faunal remains, animal bone, that is in a reasonably good state of preservation to my mind, actually gives me reason for some optimism in terms of the potential condition for human remains should we encounter them,” she said.

The bones weren't the only thing discovered.

"We're just kind of in a jumbled mess, if you will,” Stackelbeck said.

A picture from the site shows a brick with the word "Tulsa" stamped on it, and several brick pieces, along with a horseshoe. The team also found a shell casing, but experts are confident it is not connected to the race massacre.

"What I would say is that for anybody who’s familiar, you're not going to find -- the shell casing is going to be something that's found at the scene of the crime, not at the scene of the burial,” Stackelbeck said.

Archaeologists believe the artifacts they are finding are from the early to mid-1900s, and were brought in from another location and dumped.

Anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield compares this site to others she has worked.

"I'm thinking of all the dumps and landfills I've excavated looking for forensic cases and no, this is like construction fill, where it's fairly clean. Most of is actually soil, as opposed to compacted human processed things,” Stubblefield said.

At the end of the workday Tuesday it was announced archaeologists and city crews will continue digging to the south, expanding the original area for the test excavation.  Archaeologists said the team decided to shift gears and move south, partly because they weren’t finding any indicators they were in a grave shaft.

The team will be back at work Wednesday morning. 

If you want to watch a live feed of the digging the city has a camera up above the site. You can find that video on this Facebook page.