LOST CITIES OF NORTH & CENTRAL AMERICA
Published 1993 by Adventures Unlimited Press, Box 22, Stelle, Illinois 60919
By David Hatcher Childress
Pages ff. 369 to 374
Chapter 18 The Mississippi Valley: Diving At the Sunken Pyramids of Aztalan
A few nights later I attended a meeting of the Wisconsin Mounds Society in Madison. There I met with Dr. Scherz of the University of Wisconsin and a number of people who were keenly interested in the prehistory of the Midwest, and were not shackled by the dogmatic views presented by the "experts." It was refreshing to be with a group of intelligent and intellectual people who shared by own views on varied origins of American cultures and a fascination with intriguing puzzles in history.
There was an interesting report on Sanskrit words in American Indian languages and Dr. Scherz produced a curious book called Hindu America and showed it to the group.
Then, and older man, large and clean shaven, stood in front of the group and told about a cave that he had discovered in southern Illinois and about the various artifacts he had discovered inside it. His story was as fascinating and exciting as any Indiana Jones film, and, curiously, he resided in Indiana, just near the Illinois border.
The man was Russell Burrows and his story was about the discovery of Burrows Cave in a remote valley that he has so far kept a secret.
In April of 1982 Burrows was engaged in his "get away from it all" hobby of metal detecting the old homesteads in Southern Illinois for the purpose of finding relics such as axes, wedges, etc., as well as the personal items of our early settlers. On this particular day, he was in search of one of these early sites and was into the second week of the search without luck. He had taken a seat on the bluff which overlooks a small valley to rest and give the situation some thought when he decided that he was on a wild goose chase. He stood up and had turned to begin the long walk out, when suddenly he found himself falling into a pit which had been secreted beneath a large oval stone which, as he later discovered, was fitted into the pit opening and designed to flip or turn over when stepped on and trap anyone who might have the misfortune to step on. Fortunately, the stone, instead of turning over, slid off to one side and left the pit open.
At the bottom he found himself staring at a very large face cut into the wall of the pit. There were many other figures cut into the wall of that pit as well as "strange" symbols. He also noticed that the face was done in such a way that it was watching a sealed up portal or doorway.
At this point he took a good hard look at the valley and began, for the first time, to realize that it was a strange sort of place. He decided to forget the homestead he was searching for and have a good look around. Thus, he told the group, began the search of the valley which has resulted in the controversy -- is Burrows Cave genuine, or is it a hoax?
According to Burrows' description, the valley lies on a south-east to north-west heading and is about 500 or so yards in length with a width of about 75 feet to about 300 feet and has a depth at the cliff walls ranging from 20 feet to about 40 feet. The walls of these cliffs are water worn and undercut to some degree and there are several very large blocks of limestone / sandstone lying at the base of the wall on the west side. The floor of the3 valley is rather flat with a small creek running through the valley from the south to the north. He began his search at the south and soon located the entrance to the fabulous cave now called "Burrows Cave."
He crawled under a ledge and was in the process of looking for petroglyphs when he noticed that the back side of the overhang he was under had a hollow sound to it. He began to dig along the back wall of the overhang. At about town feet depth, he uncovered the top of a portal and further digging revealed that the portal was sealed with cut and fitted stone blocks. I the center of the portal was a carved head which had the appearance of a wild boar and a careful study indicated that the head was a key stone. He was five days in figuring how to get that head out and finally accomplished that task by sliding a long slender piece of steel into the crack. In so doing, he pushed another stone out of what later proved to be a notch in the stem on the back of the head. Once this was done, the head slipped out and the rest of the seal was removable. He had the presence of mind to number those blocks in the order that they were removed and, as it was now clear that a cave was on the other side, he stored those blocks inside for future replacement.
He told the group that he had been into caving for the better part of his life and so had no fear of going into this one. He cave was rather tight top to bottom, but the width was a good size. The average distance from the top or ceiling to the top of what has proven to be silt ranged from 18 to 24 inches and the width at the widest point is close to 55 feet with a narrow point of just under three feet. It was obvious from the smoke blackened ceiling that fire light had been used at some point in the past and so the depth of 18 to 24 inches was most likely not the true measurement. He found that, by the use of shotgun cleaning rods, a measurement of nine to 12 feet was the true depth from the floor to the ceiling. One question was, "Where did all the silt come from?" He was to find the answer to that question later.
So began the exploration of this cave and the discovery of the many artifacts confined therein. The fist thing he noticed were wall lamps which were cut out of a projection of solid stone. These lamps were two-headed, that is, having a head on both ends. One seems to be looking at the entrance of the cave while the other seems to be looking into the reaches of the cave. They all have blackened rims and the area above each is blackened with soot which indicated that torches had been used to light the cave.
For several days after his first entry, he continued to explore the cave. He came into an area of the cave which was very large where he discovered another figure, this one was black and very well executed. There were four more in a half circle. The statues, he claimed, looked Egyptian.
It is at this point of the exploration that he began to dig. Because of the close quarters, he was unable to dig these statues out, but was able to clear the silt down to hip level. He found that each one of the statues was standing with its left foot forward and its left arm extended. In each of the left hands, which was doubled into a fist, a hole could be seen and it is clear that each of these statues held a staff or something like a staff which by measurement was just under three quarters of an inch in diameter. Each statue was wearing a pointed hat with well done etching and all were bare chested except for crossed belts on three of them. They were belted at the waist but he could not state whether or not they are wearing trousers of a skirt, though his impression is that they were wearing a skirt. Their other furnishings were arm bands, wrist bracelets and a very wide, sell-done necklace. By using the shotgun cleaning rods, he determined that the statues are in excess of eight feet tall.
Looking closely along the walls of the cave he located 12 portals which are also sealed with cut and fitted blocks of stone. He has found 12 of these to date. After removing the stones of one of the portals and shining a light into the area behind the seals, he found himself looking at a full skeleton. As the blocks of stone were large, he had no trouble getting through the opening.
The skeleton was laid out upon a slid stone block large enough to hold not only the remains but artifacts as well. These artifacts included axe heads of marble and other stone material, an axe head of what appears to be bronze, a short sword of what also appears to be bronze as well as other artifacts which could be considered as personal weapons. Also to be seen are bronze spears in a set of three, the longest being at or about six feet in length and the shortest being about three feet. There were also several jars of what appeared to be clay standing about the crypt. Also in the crypt were the remains of arm bands, head bands and other such items. He could observe no wounds to the bones.
Ien another crypt, he found that three persons had been entombed -- a female and two children. The female had a point lodged in her chest and it had punctured a rib and gone into the area of the heart. The children each had a large puncture of the head about two inches in width and about three to four inches in length. These wounds were in the forehead. Various items were found around the skeletons.
It was a fascinating tale that Russell Burrows was telling the group. He then walked to a slide projector and began to show some slides of the artifacts found in the cave. While various photos of metal plates and coins were shown, Burrows told us about his efforts to have the site and the artifacts authenticated.
"I knew that I had better contact someone with training in archaeology and try to get some answers. So I contacted an anthropologist at Eastern Illinois University, located at Charleston, Illinois and he said that he would make an attempt to help figure out what I had found. I gathered up several artifacts and went to see this scholar. He had no idea what I had and he said so. He did however, say that he would try to find someone who could assist in figuring out the puzzle.
"I returned home and later that afternoon, I received a call from this fellow. He told me that he had called the state archaeologist and after describing to her what he had seen, he was told, and I quote word for word what he said she told him: 'Oh, I know what those things are. They were made by a cult in Southern Illinois about one hundred years ago and hidden in caves or buried.' I could not believe what I was hearing. Here is a fellow who is a scholar, or rather, supposed to be a scholar and he is accepting this statement from another scholar as fact when the artifacts have not been seen or studied. That state archaeologist is so good at her field that she can make a determination from a telephone description."
Burrows continued to flash slides for the audience. Many of the artifacts that he showed were plainly Egyptian. Some were a dull yellow color. "Is that item made out of gold?" I asked as a slide of metallic plate came on the screen.
Burrows looked at me and hesitated. "Yes, it is gold," he said.
"And did you discover the reason for the cave being filled with silt?" I asked.
"Yes," Burrows answered me. "I began to realize that the artifacts being recovered were being found in a straight line from the entrance to the next obstruction and that indicated to me that these things had been moved by water--water with a lot of force behind it to move some of the slabs of stone. Some of them are quite heavy, so it was no little trickle that had gone through this cave.
"Then I remembered something that I had seen in the north of this valley--a hole filled with water. I eventually came up with the theory that the 1811-1812 earthquake that made the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers had run backwards for three days and had also opened a seam in the stone bed of a long forgotten river or lake. In so doing, that body of water came rushing into the cave and after filling the cave, just sat there until it finally seeped and drained away, leaving all of the mud, sand and goodness knows what else built up in the cave and after drying out, it became the silt that was in the cave.
"A study of topo maps did reveal that the area has the look of a waterway and so it is possible that a river or lake could have gone underground at some time in the past. I have to believe that this is the case because there is no other explanation. Time will tell the whole story."
"How many artifacts have you taken from the cave?" asked a person at the meeting.
"So far, I've taken in excess of two thousand artifacts from the cave," Burrows replied.
"So what's your theory on the origin of the objects?" asked someone else.
"Apparently, they're Egyptian objects deposited there about 2700 years ago," he replied matter of factly.
It was starting to get late, and the meeting officially was closed. People drifted away and the slide projector was shut off. I was quite amazed at the revelations revealed that evening, some eight or nine years since the actual discovery of the cave. As several people had pointed out, it was either a fantastic and elaborate hoax, or it was all quite genuine.
In the Epigraphic Society's Occasional Publications, Vol. 17, 1988, a quick review of some of the Burrows Cave artifacts was given, and it was decided that they were not actual Egyptian artifacts, but crude fakes. According to the Epigraphic Society, in 1976 Barry Fell inadvertently placed an incorrect copy of the famous Cuenca Elephant tablet (from Ecuador) on the cover of one of their Occasional Publications. It contained a mis-shapen "ya" symbol, that had been incorrectly copied by Fell. Later, Fell corrected the mistake, but Fell claims that one of the relics from Burrows Cave is a crude copy of the incorrect Cuenca Tablet first published in 1976.
I asked Joseph Mahan, the director of the Institute for the Study of American Cultures, a Yuchi Indian, and the respected author of The Secret: America in World History Before Columbus, whether he thought that the discovery at Burrows Cave was authentic. Mahan replied that he was convinced that it was authentic, and that Barry Fell's objection was not valid because the "ya" symbol is used in various ways, including Fell's "mis-shapen ya" and the Burrow's Cave artifact. He pointed out that there were a number of "elephant tablets" around, including the Cuenaca tablet and the Davenport Stele. "I'm completely convinced that the find is authentic," he told me over the phone. "There are gold coins, statues and 2,000 other artifacts which would be very difficult to fake. I respect Barry Fell a great deal, but in this case I believe that his criticism is invalid."
So a controversy most definitely exists around the Burrows Cave artifacts. The cave is still being kept a secret, though several people have now been inside it, and it would be more difficult to fake large stone statues buried in silt, cut stone crypts and ancient skeletons. In the case of the Burrows Cave artifacts, only time will tell what the truth is.
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