During excavations on Wednesday, Oct. 21, experts discovered the remains of at least 10 people in an unmarked mass grave near the site of the ‘”Original 18″ area where victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre are likely buried.
Archaeologists and forensic scientists in Oklahoma began a second excavation on Monday in search of 18 victims of the massacre, who are thought to have been buried in a section of Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery.
Officials believe that 18 Black victims, whose names are listed on a ledger at a white-owned funeral home, were buried at the “Original 18” site.
Experts said that although the remains were found in the area, it is too early to say whether they are victims of the massacre.
“What we were finding was an indication that we were inside a large area … a large hole that had been excavated and into which several individuals had been placed and buried in that location. This constitutes a mass grave,” state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said.
The remains were found in 10 wooden coffins, which have not yet been removed. Stackelbeck said the remains are not in “great condition,” but also not in the worst condition they have seen.
In total, 11 bodies have been found, including the remains of an individual discovered on Tuesday around three feet underground in the same area. Two graves in the area have a headstone identifying the deceased as massacre victims, but the rest remain unmarked.
Phoebe Stubblefield, an archeologist and descendant of a massacre survivor, said further investigation needs to be conducted before it can be determined if the remains belong to massacre victims.
The excavations began nearly 100 years after white mobs descended upon the affluent Black Greenwood community known as Black Wall Street and killed 300 people, wounding 800 more. Homes and businesses were burned in the thriving neighborhood, and thousands of people were left homeless, after rumors spread that a Black teenager had assaulted a white woman.
The ledger with the names of 18 victims said to be buried in a section of the cemetery was found in 1998, and the first excavation began in July. The ongoing search is an expansion of the initial excavation.
Tulsa mayor G.T. Bynum proposed the search in 2018, and budgeted $100,000 to fund the excavation. “We will continue to follow through on this and other leads, as we seek to find the remains of our fellow Tulsans who were murdered in 1921,” Bynum wrote on Facebook.