After conducting the majority of the groundwork this week, the formal exhumation process is expected to start on Monday, June 7, the city said in a statement.
An eight-member team from the Tampa, Florida, office of Cardno Inc., an environmental and infrastructure company, is expected to be at Oaklawn Cemetery up to six to eight weeks completing the exhumation process.
Oaklawn Cemetery will serve as a temporary burial site for any remains found, and a public oversight committee will make recommendations for a permanent burial and memorial location for any 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims identified during this process.
Experts led in part by the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey began mapping and prepping the site on Tuesday near the headstones of massacre victims Eddie Lockard and Reuben Everett.
Though ground-penetrating radar identified 12 coffins, a funeral home ledger suggests there may be 18 bodies in the area. The excavation team is preparing for the possibility of finding as many as 30.
Heavy machinery will scrape off the first few feet of topsoil to begin the process.
Once the bodies are exhumed, the city and its public oversight committee will determine the next steps for “storing remains, DNA testing and genealogical research, and commemorating the gravesites and honoring the remains,” said a city news release.
The work — which will unfold behind a screening fence with researchers, cultural monitors, historians, morticians, a forensic anthropologist and a videographer — may take months, the city says. That’s not counting the efforts to identify the bodies and determine if they are indeed victims of the massacre.
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