Archaeologists 'Optimistic' About Mass Graves Search At Oaklawn Cemetery

Thursday, July 16th 2020, 5:23 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

The team of scientists and city workers digging at Oaklawn Cemetery in the search for possible mass graves from the 1921 Race Massacre wrapped up their fourth day of work Thursday. 

The team said it reached about 10 feet underground, and they are continuing to dig toward the south side of the cemetery.

The archaeologists said mid-day Thursday that they have no new discoveries to report but continue to see a similar pattern of what they've been seeing the last few days. 

Friday, experts plan to have a coring truck at the site, and said they'll start placing cores into the ground that are about three inches in diameter. Part of the goal with the coring is to figure out where the ground surface was in 1921, because it wasn't where it is today, 99 years later.

Stackelbeck explained how it will help them.

"It's gonna be slow going from the standpoint of visibility, but it also is a very quick way for us to asess the soils across that landform much quicker than what we're able to do with the backhoe,” she said.

University of Florida Anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield said each day at the site is an adventure, adding that she's very encouraged and Thursday was “productive.” Stackelbeck said despite not having anything new to report about what's underground, the team has a positive outlook going forward, and said they could encounter clues they're entering into a grave shaft.

"We continue to be optimistic. We have still only tested a portion of this area overall,” Stackelbeck said. “So we have more to investigate, more to look for. So I continue to be optimistic that we are in the right place."

Depending on how work goes Friday with the coring truck, the team may need to come back out on Saturday, before returning again on Monday.