No Remains Found, But Archaeologists Think Search for Race Massacre Graves Headed in Right Direction

Jul 21, 2020

Archaeologists excavating a portion of Oaklawn Cemetery have found a variety of artifacts in the soil.
Credit City of Tulsa

Archaeologists searching Oaklawn Cemetery for a potential mass grave where victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre could be buried have found a pair of shoes.

State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said that’s important because they are well preserved, researchers can figure out an approximate age for them and they provide important context in the search.

"It appears to have been a clean context, if you will, that they were in their location of primary deposition, the place that they had been intentionally left as opposed to some of the other shoe fragments that we’ve had up to this point are mixed in with fill that are from some place else and are in their secondary deposition area," Stackelbeck said.

Researchers will do a bit more digging at Oaklawn Cemetery. They had encountered a new layer of soil near the end of a trench at the end of last week but were still finding objects in it. Stackelbeck said cores taken east of that trench indicate the same soil is present there.

"And so, that’s actually very important and just another clue for us that we feel like we might be heading in the right direction. This is about the most promising information we’ve had to date that we may, in fact, be looking in the right place. We’re hoping," Stackelbeck said.

Stackelbeck expects the third trench at Oaklawn Cemetery will be the last one they dig there. A city update sent Tuesday evening indicated the test excavation would conclude on Wednesday.