Scientists, Historians Release 2020 Work Summary In Tulsa Race Massacre Graves Search

Thursday, December 17th 2020, 6:23 pm

TULSA, Okla. -

Scientists and historians gave new details about the mass grave that archaeologists found at Oaklawn Cemetery in October in the search for Tulsa Race Massacre victims.

The Physical Investigation Committee held a virtual meeting for the public and released a report that summarized their work this year, including digging for mass graves in July and October.

The city released a report completed by the experts, summarizing the work done this year. The report states the estimated dimensions of the mass grave found at Oaklawn Cemetery. 

The team of scientists and historians said in the report the mass grave found in the "Original 18" area at Oaklawn Cemetery in October is about 290 square feet. But the team said that represents only “a portion of the overall mass grave dimensions.”  

Archeologists said soil sample data suggests the mass grave could be more than 1400 square feet. If that turns out to be the case, experts said it is possible the total number of people buried could be more than 30, according to the summary report. Right now experts said they are aware of at least 12 individuals. 

The City of Tulsa is going through the legal process to get the team permission to remove the human remains from the ground to study them. From there, the team will work to determine whether the mass grave is connected to the Tulsa Race Massacre.  

The report outlines specific details about what will happen when scientists study the remains:  

“Based on the fragile state of Burial 1, recovery and analysis of the mass grave burials will include 1) application of a reversible preservative to most bones, 2) in situ metal detection and possibly radiography to screen for projectiles, 3) reconstruction of skeletal components relevant to identity, if preservation allows, 4) examination and documentation of the morphological features of sex, ancestry, and age at death, and 5) examination and documentation of traumatic features or features that might be associated with a cause of death.” 

The full report can be read here.