Archaeologists identify mass grave with at least 10 coffins in Tulsa Race Massacre investigation

Posted at 6:04 PM, Oct 21, 2020

On the third day of the second test excavations, archaeologists said they identified a mass grave with outlines of at least ten coffins during the graves investigation.

During a press conference on Wednesday, researchers said they do not feel they are at the stage of needing to expose those remains, as they do not want to do any harm.

Researchers encountered the first set of human remains on day two of the second test excavation in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Graves Investigation.

PHOTO GALLERY: Researchers work on second test excavation to recover possible mass graves from 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

Archaeologists said, during a press conference on Oct. 20, they do not know if the remains are from 1921 at this time. They said they are hopeful to find additional remains. Researchers added that this big discovery gives them a better understanding of where to find more remains.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said he is grateful for the experts who located the remains.

I am very grateful to have the foremost experts in the country working to locate the remains of victims from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Today, our research team found an unmarked grave in an area previously identified through geophysical survey work. The next step will be to identify if the remains are associated with the Tulsa Race Massacre. This will be done through forensic analysis of the remains, and by comparing them with funeral home and death certificate records. We will continue to take this investigation one step at a time, wherever it may lead.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum

Researchers said they found the remains three feet below the surface on the west side of Oaklawn Cemetery.

The discovery includes a wood coffin held together with metal nails, a temporary marker used to identify where a gravestone is usually placed and human remains of one person.

State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said signs of trauma will help experts determine if these remains were from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Researchers said the investigation is expected to last one week, but could extend into a second week, depending on the findings.

READ MORE: Second test excavation in 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Graves Investigation to begin Oct. 19

The archaeologists are focusing on two areas in Oaklawn Cemetery this time around.

The first site is adjacent to two 1921 Race Massacre headstones in the historical African American section of Potters field; the second is a new dig site located on the Southwest section of the cemetery.

In 2018, Mayor Bynum announced the City of Tulsa would re-examine potential graves from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. That investigation began in 2020 with crews conducting their search along the western edge of the cemetery. Archaeologists conducted extensive test excavations and concluded with no evidence of human remains.

However, the search could continue beyond Oaklawn Cemetery. Researchers said several areas are still candidates for possible mass grave sites related to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The Canes, near Newblock Park, and Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens could be next on the list of possible excavation sites.

WATCH Oct. 20 press conference below:

For more information on the test excavations from the City of Tulsa,click here.

You can also follow the City of Tulsa's 1921 Graves Facebook page for photos and continued updates, click here.

This story originally reported by Tatianna Taylor on KJRH.com.