A CALM REFLECTION ON BURROWS CAVE
By Dr. Cyclone Covey Professor Emeritus of Ancient History
Wake Forest University October 1994
Note by Harry Hubbard: Professor Covey received our first video release in September of 1994. Dr. Covey had the opportunity to review Tomb Tape III several times before writing this article, which indeed is one of his better works. The October ISAC Conference was at hand and due to illness, Dr. Covey was unable to attend, however, he composed this report to be read aloud to the audience in his stead. This work was subsequently published in several journals and Diffussionist magazines. My only personal comment concerning this work is that Dr. Covey was taking the words of Burrows too seriously concerning several issues. The primary issue that concerns me is how he portrays Jack Ward which is not an accurate assessment.
REMEMBER it was leading Egyptologists who pronounced the Amarna Letters fake, even though they could read Akkadian diplomatic cuneniform. The time came when all Egyptologists accepted them -- after unknown loss & damage. It was the leading Maya authority who for a generation blocked efforts to decipher Mayan epigraphy as anything but dates. After Tatania Proskouriakoff's 1971 breakthrough all Maya authorities including him recognized fynastic chronicles as well. We recall the eminent scientists Michaelson & Morley in Chicago 1887 who split a light beam in various directions buy thought their experiment a failure because it did not prove their certainty of ether, whereas Einstein plainly saw it disproved that assumption but proved the speed of light constant. You can go on to multiply your own list, buy we notice that even scientists proceed by assumptions which may outweigh evidence. We need any expertise we can get, but expertise does not in itself immunize. Even our genius Barry Fell could say "Narmer built the Great Pyramid" when gradeschoolers know that Narmer, who founded the 1st Dynasty, could not have built Khufu's 4th Dynasty pyramid; yet nobody since Ventris & Mayani matched Fell's epigraphic insights. (When "amateurs" like Hubbard & Schaffranke correct experts they lose their amateur standing.)
If our sanity does not depend on preconceived doctrine and we can extract hypothalamic venom from our view of Burrows Cave, here are several quiet considerations, viz.
1) POTSHERDS from the top foot of silt--the same level as the stone haul--classify borderline Woodland/Early Mississippian--precisely at the spectacular rise of Cahokia due west near the site of St. Louis. There is absolutely no disagreement on this, so no need to bog down in technical details like fizzing in water that proves shell-tempering (diagnostic of Mississippian), or cord-marking (diagnostic of holdover Woodland).
Disagreement comes at other points, buy this noncontroversial evidence does suggest or--as scientists would put it, is not inconsistent with--a sealing of the cave in that period, related to Mississippian domination from Cahokia. Because discoveries over decades keep bearing Joe Mahan out, I hesitate to reject his suggestion of a massive sacred-object dumping into the cave at the exterminative Iroquois advance 1682; but in themselves--abstracted from all other data--the sherds indicate a terminal date of cave use at c.800 A.D. +50 years. The burial crypts at floor level could then be indefinitely older, buy a lone stone Burrows found on the floor inside the main crypt bears a captioned portrait in the same style & script of some of the stones embedded in silt. This does not mean that stones accumulated from the time of the crypts could not have been dumped all at once c.800 or 1682 A.D.
2) ABUNDANCE OF SHERDS & STONES IN SILT to within a foot or 18 inches of the soot-blackened ceiling attests a cataclysm of tremendous force, such as the New-Madrid earthquake of 1811--the biggest known in American history. The disastrous Midwest floods last year did not affect Burrows Cave. Other known floods have seeped in & seeped out--no violent hundreds-of-tons sweeping. We have to say that the double line of 12 tombs preceded this unrepeated tectonic violence. If a 19th-century cult carved the thousands of inscribed stones carried in the silt, it would have to have practiced its rites in a crawl-space of 12-18 inches from 1812 on and could not have included crypt-building at ground level in just the first decade of the 19th century of in any of its last 88 years. 19th-century graffiti outside the cave show total obliviousness of a cave's existence underneath; 20th-century geological surveys ditto.
In contemplating a hypothetical 19th-century cult, we have the further problem of medieval potsherds associated with the stones. Would you say pre-1811 19th-century cultists faked 8th-century potsherds or just the associated stones? Stones older than 8th-century could have been dumped with 8th-century pots easier than younger stones with them, if they are not the same age. The may not be the same age to have been dumped at the same time, which could hardly by later than the latest pots.
3) WE DON'T NEED TO LOSE TIME over speculation that no one but Burrows has seen the cave. Persons you know from past ISAC conferences who have seen it include Warren Dexter, whom today's conference honors, Scherz, Hourigan, Rydholm, Trawicky, White, & Mosley. ISAC officers Mahan & Morrison have visited the ravine site without crawling into the cave which, after all, is not a walk-in type. Its original entry has not been discovered, though Burrows fell down to the sealed exit via a trap designed to kill anyone finding it.
4) FOR ANYONE WHO HAS NOT HEARD the full story of the notorious elephant stone (among a number of variant Burrows Stones depicting elephants) I insert bare details. Fell violated a cardinal rule of evidence in deciphering the Libyan Cuenca stone by altering the vertical line of what we would call a Roman S (B in Libyan) to a slant line. Jack Ward, to make the Burrows Stones square with Fell's photograph in America B.C., slanted the vertical line of this same character with putty, cleverly applied while the cache reposed in his Vincennes museum. Burrows found this out by acid test long after Ward died--a short time before Fell died. (Burrows kept the putty.) Ward never saw the cave. When Virginia Hourigan tried to show Fell her pictures of the stones he rejected them & the whole cave on spying the slanted S. There is more to the story, but Fell, who might well have cracked the tantalizing inscriptions, would look no further.
5) AT THE 1991 ISAC CONFERENCE Cyrus Gordon called Burrows Cave a greater discover than Tut's tomb. Burrows arranged a visit to the cave. Some time later Gordon notified Burrows he was bringing his wife. The property owner, already apprehensive about publicity that would surround a celebrity, balked at another person augmenting the caravan's conspicuousness. He overruled Burrows. Had he or Burrows known Connie Gordon was a distinguished linguist in her own right this discourtesy would have been avoided-a tragic misunderstanding for all concerned. To leap to the conclusion that the cave was a figment of Burrows' imagination was--however humanly understandable--a non sequitur.
6) FOR AWHILE WE HEARD AN ALLEGATION that the stones were an artificial composition. If so, that would not disprove their antiquity. But you can see for yourselves they are real stones. The black ones do resemble a type of shale that disintegrates in open air. Robert Pyle of West Va. & a geologist Thomas Mros last Aug. seem to have confused black Burrows Stones with shale. Buy a number of geologists, also a ceramicist, have heat-&-crush-tested black Burrows Stones, determining lithographic limestone. They diagnosed with difficulty because unfamiliar with such rock. Ward was certain it came from the Libyan desert. We have to discount anything Ward said, but the stones still pose more of a mystery than their engravings. Pyle & Mros remind me of the physicist who proved that bugs clocked flying 50 mi. and hour could not because chiton would disintegrate at that velocity. He forgot to tell the bugs.
Not all Burrows Stones are black. The one in my possession is a green-stone sculpture of a lion-face with round eyes & stylized mane. Lions symbolizing divine royalty recur throughout the stones. This green piece shows darkening at the edges, thus looks older than small Neolithic greenstone sculptures I have seen in distant museums. Paleontologist frequently remark mint condition of Paleolithic sculptures, frescoes, & fossils, which in each case temporarily also raised a question of their age. I had an impression of Burrows Stones as eon water-rolled, as in a streambed or turbulent seashore, suggesting collection as ballast for ships that some stones depict, which perhaps freighted the amphorae, gold, & marble of the crypts. The everyday-plainware sherds from the silt are doubtless local in clay & manufacture but Burrows, for all his familiarity with the region, has not located the source of the unusual black stones or, for that matter, of the marble, gold, or amphorae.
So much is known to exist in the cave which we have knowledge & technology to analyze--statues, reliefs, implements, vessels, scrolls, styles--that it has surprised me when certain professed scientists predecided them fake, unexamined. Their organized campaign to discredit the cave in advance inhibited both property owner & professional archaeologists from risking proper excavation in years when it was feasible & planned despite costliness of a base-camp so far from a populated center. Scoffers who helped interdict investigation have blasted Burrows for not unearthing the massive evidence which state laws against burial-disturbance now forbid. Burrows & cave-committees welcomed doubters & skeptics, recalling that the scientist who geomagnetically verified the ridiculed Wegener Hypothesis was trying to disprove it. They also recall the 1st Psalm: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers."
7) BURROWS CAVE REVEALS GREAT GAPS in our knowledge, but fits the historical context & Shawano oral tradition we do know. The Illinois Country between Mississippi & Wabash lay within the domain of the Shawano Confederation--a basic reason La Salle so easily got Illinois & Shawnees (both Algonquin-speaking) to combine to hold that area against Iroquois Senecas who, to control the lucrative fur-trade, descended with Dutch & Swede firearms systematically exterminating Shawano tribes, beginning at Lake Erie. The U.S. Army & homesteaders drove Indians from the Illinois Country 1814-19, and the Army rounded up any Indians still inhabiting it in 1836, eradicating any memory in the region itself of prior history there. But Shawano confederates preserved a memory in Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas and other states of mausoleums (plural) amidst that strategic water-system (which formerly flowed even more voluminously).
The last Yuchi sun-king, Samuel Brown Jr., confided to Mahan many years before Burrows discovery that a sealed mausoleum existed in that vicinity containing a lot of gold & an archive. The cave does contain a lot of gold. Its engraved stones may not constitute what Brown understood as an archive. Two of the crypt urns which Burrows found broken, disclosed scrolls within. To avoid the slightest damage, Burrows left them untouched to await specialist extraction. Precision masonry that made the crypts water-tight created a vacuum, as Mahan realized, which would allowing papyrus preservation.
Yuchis were moved from Georgia & Alabama with the Creeks to Creek Co., Oklahoma, where they reside at Sapulpa, Kelleyville, Bristow, Big Pond, Deep Fork, Coweta, etc. Mahan has demonstrated the Yuchis, despite non-Algonquin language, the bonding element of the Shawan Confederation, Gulf to Great Lakes. Creeks dominated Muskogean- speaking tribes of the Mississippian culture; their cities in Oklahoma include Muskogee & Okmulgee. The Shawano Confederation embraced the invading Muskogeans, but Brown confided to Mahan that Yuchis & Shawnees never revealed the cave secret to Creeks, though admitting them to their ceremonies. (This item also favors a sealing of the cave in Early Mississippian before Cahokia displaced the Shawano center on Skillet Fork.)
8) I HAVE HEARD BURROWS STONES DISMISSED as crude art. Pyle adds: "Scribe marks show rough uneven edges indicating a hastily produced art work," (as if haste proved recentness) & glossy surfaces indicated "buffing and polishing" (as if that had not characterized stonework since the Mesolithic). Some Burrows Stones engravings are on the contrary elegant, but quality or speed of art is irrelevant to authenticity. Even bad art is a good document of its moment. It would be hard to imagine more hasty art than Matisse or Picasso's, the approximate style-date of which would be in no doubt. The rocks evidently record many moments by many hands over an extended period but consistently fall after 800 B.C. & before 800 or so A.D. That is quite a span but excludes anything as late as, or later than the Vikings plus all Egyptian history before the 23rd Dynasty--all 22 dynasties we usually study. Harry Hubbard and Paul Schaffranke narrow some of the stones to the 30 years 15 B.C. - 15 A.D. that show awareness of Hellenistic-Egyptian tradition & Roman-Republican Mediterranean.
9) A REPEATED COMMENT that the engravings do not quite duplicate what we know from the first 20 dynasties--is exactly what they should not quite duplicate by later non-Egyptians devoted to Egyptian sun-religion. When our esteemed friend Stephen Jett said the etymology of the chief Carthaginian god, Ba'al Hammon as Punic for Egyptian Lord Amon is not what we were taught, he was correct. We were not taught what was not yet known. International excavators of Carthage through the 70s & 80s into the 90s--exasperationly slow--found that not only is our old etymology obsolete and Carthaginian religion Egyptian buy the Vatican of Carthage was incredibly the remote western temple-of-Amon at Siwa Oasis which Alexander visited 331 B.C. and where his satrap Ptolemy said Alexander wished to be buried, and that Carthaginians maintained contact by caravan when Greeks & Egyptians denied them sea-access to the eastern Mediterranean. The couldn't have got to Siwa by sea anyway. Because the oracle at Siwa pronounced Alexander a god, he entered the Carthaginian pantheon & thereby Burrows Cave, Alexander's successor-Ptolemies likewise, since pharoahs became gods at death.
Hubbard and Schaffranke discovered Julius Caesar depicted & named on a Burrows Stone portraying him with Egyptian ureaus as pharoah. He was eligible to memorialize as king of Egypt--husband/successor of Cleopatra, the last Ptolemy. A Burrows Stone that maps SW Spain & demarks Caesar's big battles there in Roman numerals--a major detection of Hubbard and Schaffranke--reveals a memory of Rome's civil war in the west-Mediterranean theater--after Caesar took Egypt. He had been a quaestor in Spain 68 B.C., returned in 61 as governor of Further (i.e. South) Spain &, in 49, instead of pursuing Pompey directly out of Italy SE, campaigned against Pompey's forces in Spain; defeated Pompey himself at Pharsalos, Macedonia, & followed him to Egypt; continued to the Carthaginian region of North Africa & concluded at Munda in SW Spain 45 B.C. I see no necessity for corpses of Alexander, the Ptolemies, & Caesar to explain commemoration in an Egyptian-religious context. (Nothing datable on Burrows Stones seems later than the Battle of Munda, but our engraver must have heard of Caesar's assassination 6 months later.)
We in fact have to account for any Roman tradition at all amidst conspicuous Egyptian, Libyan, Punic, & Jewish traditions in the cave. Carthage fought three great wars with the Roman Republic, but Rome destroyed Carthage & closed the Strait of Gibraltar about a century before Caesar fought Pompey. Etruria had been a Carthaginian ally. The Greeks of East Sicily also allied with their old enemy Carthage against Rome in the 2nd Punic War, but that would have been the 3rd century B.C. It is more conceivable that Carthaginians captured Roman soldiers in the 2nd Punic War than that any of them was literate. The style of early Latin in the Etruscan alphabet, read retrograde, which Hubbard & Schaffranke momentously deciphered on a number of Burrows Stones and which Mahan has verified in the ISAC collection, reflect the period when Rome remained under Etruscan influence that originally civilized them & whose funerary practices Rome continued conservatively. While Romans learned playwriting & history-writing from Sicilian-Greek captives of the 2nd Punic War, & Etruscans had long since imported pottery from Greece, the Etruscan language survived through the time of Caesar, a major contributor to the evolution of Classical Latin (along with Lucretius, Cicero, et al. in that same 1st century B.C.). Carthaginian influence persisted if not prevailed in Spain & western North Africa down to the reign of Augustus. The Greek in Burrows inscriptions is as recognizable as Egyptian hieroglyphics, buy most of the Greek has faded just beyond legibility. We would have had no trouble reading Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, or Classical-or-Vulgate Latin buy were unprepared for Libyan, Punic, Iberic, or archaic retrograde Latin in Etruscan. Burrows Cave relics exhibit both a pre-3rd-Punic-War Carthaginian tradition and post-Ptolemaic Egypto-Roman tradition, thus may represent widely-separated eras & centers--unless a Roman or Romans of Carthaginian Spain joined Carthaginian refugees to America when the Roman Empire closed its grip on the west Mediterranean with the ascendance of Augustus. Romans stationed in Spain from the time of the 1st Punic War might have retained archaic Latin usage in rustic Further Spain, where legions had been posted since the 1st Punic War. & whence many prominent Romans later came, including Seneca. Trajan's ancestors lived in Southern Spain; Hadrian's mother was a native of Gades (Cadiz). For now we can only speculate, but archaic Latin in Etruscan does not account for inscriptions in hieroglyphics, Punic, & Libyan or an apparent combination thereof, or for Buddhist or Jewish elements.
Egyptian writing, symbols, & style throughout could derive from Libyans of Carthaginians or scribes of any nation allied with, subject to, or war-prisoners of Carthage or of Libyan, Saite, or Ptolemaic pharoahs. The scripts the stones exhibit are exclusively of languages spoken in this Mediterranean combination of which Fell found vocabularies creolized within Algonquin: Egyptian, Semitic, Libyan, Greek, & Celtic. He found that Algonquin also eventually included Norse & western-Algonquin Siberic. The stones' scripts do not include runes--further indicating a pre-Viking date for cave sealing. The might even predate Celtic expansion that far west if what looks like Ogam is not Celtic or a language at all but a tally or index system, as Hubbard and Schaffranke suggest. (Siberic doubtless went unwritten if present.)
Fell missed any Latin in Algonquin, perhaps because he didn't look for it, shackled by his assumption that substrate Egyptian in Algonquin reflected Neolithic of no-later-than-Bronze migration, whereas we cannot track transatlantic voyaging out of the Mediterranean before the Iron Age; we can document limitation and blocking. While the stones' inscriptions do not seem to make proper sense in Punic, Libyan, or Gaelic of these apparent scripts, the stones Hubbard & Schaffranke deciphered make clear sense and all Burrows Stones show a consistency of Mediterranean time/space origin. It is a vast time & vast space buy not random, not any time, any place. An inverted V followed by two vertical strokes repeatedly recurs. Via Etruscan, Hubbard & Schaffranke translate Helios--logical for the cave's sun-religion with its myriad depictions of the sun. The formula can be read as Greek, Libyan, Punic, & Iberic, but illogically. Keith Overstreet translates it by hieroglyphic analogy as ti, which Ethel Stewart's brilliant Addendum points out a widespread Asiatic suffix denoting royal divinity. Mahan says ti in Yuchi means religious medicine as a whole. Overstreet sees this formula in Burrows Cave synonymous with Yuchi cosha (man/snake/eagle), a convergent spiritual identification. This progress comes from treating the scripts like other undeciphered texts.
10) IT IS NOT QUITE TRUE that the engraved stones have NO PRECEDENTS. If they hadn't we would confront a possible new precedent. But many features have precedents. Zena Halperin has found the unusual triangle-base of menorahs depicted on Burrows Stones also depicted on a coin of 37 B.C. & a relief of sometime between 37 & 4 B.C.-- so rare that it is prohibitively unlikely that anyone in the 18th or 19th or most of the 20th century could have known of that form. I had thought what was significant was 7 candle holders, indicating pre-Hanukka, buy Zena's rare examples still have 7. A particular Burrows Stone she studied depicts menorah with shofar, harp, & lute. It labels the deified dead king shown standing in Egyptian-king posture in hieroglyphics which I tentatively transliterate Siqi. The determinative for god signifies the king is dead, thus now a god. A precedented Merenptah cartouche also appears.
Don Eckler has detected the triangle-within-a triangle design on earrings of a man portrayed on a Burrows Stone, matching this design on a stone found in the Genesee River, New York--a design so rare that ever the most knowledgeable scholars of the 19th century would not have had a model to copy by.
The 8-spoke wheel-design on Burrows Stones has 3rd-century-B.C. precedents in the Tophet of Carthage. The molded gold horse-head Carthaginian coins duplicate known gold Carthaginian coins found on the Arkansas River & in the Mediterranean. One objection has been that the Burrows coins were not minted, but neither were gold Carthaginian coins found anywhere else. Their deposit in Burrows burials cannot, obviously, predate Carthaginian coinage. They can postdate indefinitely, but it seems unlikely that anyone was strewing Carthaginian coins or any other gold in recent centuries. Burial of gold with kings has precedents elsewhere in North America, Peru, Egypt, China, Crete, Sumer, India, etc. Concealing large quantities of gold to fool modern explorers has little precedent. As in Egypt, the tombs of Burrows Cave were meant to remain undiscovered.
The custom of slaying a king's family & attendants at his funeral has widespread ancient precedent & continuations, including Natchez sun-kings in 18th-century Louisiana. It went out of vogue in dynastic Egypt buy had been practiced at pre-dynastic Naqada & Nekhen (Hellenistic Hierakonpolis).
Gloria Farley found characters on Cimarron bluffs which recur on Burrows Stones--the ones Fell pioneeringly mistranslated "Chief Raz." Gloria found many representations fo the Punic goddess Tanit, whom Burrows Stones, plaques, & coins duplicate. She further brought Anubis to light in the Oklahoma panhandle which, together with Anubises on Burrows Stones, had immemorial precedents in Egypt.
The straight-out-winged profile thunderbird of Burrows Stones has precedents from across the Pacific and delimits this appearance to Buddhist periods. Keith Overstreet is going to explore the Kushan connection. Aegean & other bird types also appear on the stones.
Helmet & headdress types engraved on the stones have precedents in Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, Libya, & Italy. A number of the headresses had duplicates among Algonquin-speaking tribes, as we would expect of archaic tear of Aegean, North-African, or Central-Asiatic warriors.
A sarcophagus on a marble slab & marble tomb-walls have familiar precedents in Western antiquity, as do dirt-filled amphorae & other grave furniture including bracelets & stone knives. Cave burial has precedents from the Middle Paleolithic to late antiquity notably in Italy until the 4th century A.D.
Scrolls in urns have a well-known precedent at Qumran. No 19th-century denizens knew about the Dead Sea Scrolls. As to the whole question of precedents, we must take a note of Comalcalco, which Neil Steede has shown in may respects unprecedented but whose large flat fired bricks are Roman-type, engraved with cartoons & legends in may scripts which we cannot yet satisfactorily read other than Latin for centurion. Unprecedented or not, there they are--millions left undug. Burrows Stones are equally tangible--untold thousands undug and for the present undiggable.
11) HOSTILITY of state bureaucrats, and organized malicious movement of supposed experts, & dishonesty of the Vincennes-museum-warehouser compounded a formidable problem of security. Consider the position of Burrows & the property owner responsible for an unsuspected mausoleum of incalculable historic & monetary value in remote open often lawless country exposed to vandals. How would you protect it without advertising its whereabouts? How would you proceed differently under the circumstances if, not an archaeologist, you were shut out of bureaucracy & academia?
Serious scholars finally took the Amarna Letters seriously. Think how silly it would be if today scholars ascribed them to an imaginary cult or Scupin's cowboy frolic. Such flippancy & cynicism toward Burrows Cave will sound silly to anyone surveying 12 actual burials in water-tight crypts of precision masonry holding gold & scrolls, a cave of undetermined hundreds-of-yards length, & the gargantuan labor of engraving its unknown thousands of stones in ancient scripts.
What Burrows notwithstanding brought to light is far more extensive than critics credit, resulting in several books, several symposia, many articles, this conference display, & photographs by Hourigan, Dexter, Scherz, & Mosley. It is not true that all academics are dogmatic cowards with closed minds. Time is on the side of the saving remnant within & without academia.
Barry Fell, once our fearless pioneer, astonishingly told me in private after our public altercation over Sea Peoples at Albuquerque: "I'm scared to death of historians" and, at last, "Well, the truth will out in time."
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