Past Articles

Concerning Burrows Cave

ESOP / MES Articles Midwest Epigraphic Journal

ISAC Article Institute for the Study of American Cultures

Louisiana Mound Society Articles discussing Burrows Cave



ESOP Volume 19

The Burrows Cave Artifacts by Charles W. Bailey



M.E.J. Articles

Midwest Epigraphic Journal

M.E.J. Volume VII

Dating the Origin of Burrows Cave by Dr. Victor Kachur

Tyre Circle-cross found at Burrows Cave by Dr. John White III

Recognizing the Quality of Burrows Cave Art by Dr. Moseley

M.E.J. Volume VIII

A Burrows Cave Inscription by Dr. Huston McCulloch

M.E.J. Volume IX

Historical Context of Burrows Cave by Dr. Joe Mahan

Burrows Cave Bibliography by Dr. John White III

M.E.J. Volume X



by Virginia Steen









Louisiana Mound Society

Articles discussing Burrows Cave

Burrows Cave: Fact or Fiction?

By Dr. Cyrus Gordon Professor Emeritus Brandeis University

September 1991

Contrary to rumors, I have no connection with the alleged antiquity site generally referred to as "Burrows Cave", in southern Illinois.

A slide showing many large "gold coins" said to come from the Cave was projected on a screen during a meeting of ISAC in June 1991. Mr. Russell Burrows implored the audience not to talk about this golden treasure lest it endanger his family who might be taken as hostages and abused by criminals to force him to reveal where the gold-laden Cave is located. His plea was impassioned and I attributed his apparent dread of such savage brutality, to his experience as a veteran of the violent Vietnam War.

I felt that the coins, if genuine, were important enough to merit investigation rather than be brushed aside, a priori, as "too good to be true." (I remember when the caves that yielded the Dead Sea Scrolls were considered "too good to be true.") However, until a trustworthy and competent scholar is permitted to examine the actual coins, we must countenance other scenarios such as that the slide could have been made from a recently-contrived painting. No credible witness has, to my knowledge, seen the Cave or the coins.

The descriptions of the Cave and its contents that have come to my attention, are typologically akin to tales of caverns in the Arabian Nights. I have also heard such "cave stories" from sincere natives during my years of excavating in Iraq and Jordan. But Illinois is a new and unexpected source thereof.

I am interested in the Phenomenon of belief in the fanciful. Perhaps all of us are subject to this to some extent. But it has no place in the disciplines of archeology and history. If Mr. Burrows is essentially sincere about the Cave as he has described it, he may be obsessed with fantasies like many of my Near East acquaintances who live in a wondrous world full of jinn and afarit. Their supernatural experiences are full of superlatives, like Mr. Burrows' tales. The supposed owner of Burrows Cave is said to have allocated 25 million dollars for excavating the Cave and building a museum to house its contents. The Cave is said to include thirteen tombs with human remains, a ton (sic!) of gold and even inscribed scrolls.

Mr. Burrows tells how he penetrated the Cave by stepping on the outside half of a loose slab at its entrance. Had he instead stepped on the inside half, he would have dropped to his death in a pit made to trap intruders, as in Pharaonic tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

If only a tenth of Mr. Burrows' account were true, the Cave would be an outstanding discovery. So, at the ISAC meeting in June 1991, I arranged to examine the Cave and the gold coins under the guidance of Mr. Burrows. Soon we fixed an exact date: October 19th and 20th, 1991.

After a month and a half had elapsed, I received o couple of phone calls from Mr. Burrows. In the second one, he asked if I was up to waling about half a mile to reach the Cave from the road where we would have to leave the car and continue on foot. I assured him that I would be equal to it (for I would more than that every day). Then he added that the area was infested with snakes, to which I replied that with high leather footgear, I had no objection to the presence of serpents. (I'm used to venomous creatures from my excavations and explorations in the Near East, where I regularly shook out by shoes to make sure there were no scorpions in them, when I go dressed in the morning.)

When his latter-day Labors of Hercules failed to dissuade me, Mr. Burrows notified me (in a letter dated 23 August 1991) that the owner had rejected our long-planned visit to the Cave site, for security reasons. However, Mr. Burrows courteously offered to show me some of the region in which the Cave is allegedly situated and his collection of 115 artifacts from the Cave. I declined this kind offer because I have examined some of those finds and seen the photographs of many more. They are modern products in which I am not interested. The "good stuff" (notably the gold) has -- so the story goes been put back into the Cave.

I cannot prove that the Cave, its owner, the latter's munificent gift of $25,000,000, and the ton of gold do not exist. In world where men walking on the moon have been televised to earth, where surgeons perform heart transplants, where the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, where the Cold War suddenly ended, etc., who can say that other miracles can't happen? Maybe there is a tiny "Kernal" of truth to the wild stories about Burrows Cave. But I have no time to search for it. I have other priorities.

Dr. Cyrus Gordon is the worlds top-rated linguist and Semitic scholar. Above that, he and his charming wife Connie are both exceedingly brilliant and personal acquaintances of ours. This article was obviously written to explain Dr. Gordon's side of the story. Burrows had informed his cronies that Gordon was attempting to bully him out of it and take the cave over for his own which was certainly not the case. The entire episode is told by Burrows on the "Spirits and Ghosts" video for anyone wishing to hear his side of the story.