Archaeologists Have Yet to Find Human Remains in Search of Potential Tulsa Race Massacre Mass Grave

Jul 17, 2020

Archaeologists have not yet found evidence of human remains during their excavation of a portion of Oaklawn Cemetery in the city's search for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Credit Brian Nutt / City of Tulsa

Archaeologists have not yet found human remains as they search Oaklawn Cemetery for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

They began excavating on Monday a section in the southwest corner where geophysical surveys indicated anomalies consistent with mass graves.

"I know that it seems like we’re coming up dry every day, but the thing is, we’re finding information and clues that basically tell us stories of years and years gone by," said Brenda Alford, who chairs the citizen committee overseeing the search and is the granddaughter of race massacre survivors.

State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said they did make an interesting discovery Friday: buried remnants of an old east-west road in the cemetery. Researchers need to figure out when it was built.

"One reason that’s critical for us is because anything that is underneath that road surface would predate that road surface. So, that gives us a good temporal indicator and lets us know kind of where we are in time and space," Stackelbeck said. "It was also really neat too because it actually corresponded directly to some of the geophysical — or a nice geophysical anomaly — that ... we picked up with the geophysical survey work in that location."

Archaeologists have now excavated a secondary trench roughly 60 feet long and 10 feet deep. They plan on bringing in new equipment Monday.