Issue 29

"Mudstone" Source for

Burrows Cave Found

by Wayne May

In 1982, Russell Burrows, a treasure hunter in Southern Illinois, accidentally found a subterranean set of chambers containing thousands of mostly black stones covered with inscriptions and illustrations of men and women from the Ancient World. Although he sold numerous specimens from his "cave" on the black-market, he refused to reveal its location until last spring. Since then, painstaking excavation of the site continues in the hope of discovering its entrance. Editor.

The heavy spring rains which fell on southern Illinois caused numerous delays in the Burrows Cave project last March. Making use of the enforced hiatus, we explored the area around the site and visited some rural towns to learn what we could about its environmental context. I even had time to visit with Thelma and Sherman McClain, Russell's first contacts and view their collection of artifacts.

This brings us to another contact from Calhoun, Illinois, Bob Harmon. We met him through Tim Dunahee, an off-duty police officer. Mr. Harmon told us he had been personally acquainted with Russell Burrows, and noticed his truck parked several times by Big Creek River, where Bob collects Indian points on Big Creek, Skillet and Fox River systems.

While walking Big Creek (the Myer's site) where the Mudstone is found, Mr. Harmon made his own revealing discovery. He found what might be called a "blank" prepared by one of the ancient Burrows Cave artisans, who left it unfinished. Notice its matching size compared to the completed specimen. the relative shapes of both stones show the elliptical feature of the blank and the finished piece.

Bob Harmon then introduced us to Jesse Myers who owns frontage along Big Creek. He said that Russell had been on his river-front property to walk and explore the area and that he always asked permission.

Black Mudstone, as we referred to it, was scattered everywhere and exposed in strata along the river bank. Mudstone is similar in composition to red catlinite found at Pipestone, Minnesota. Catlinite is mined in a semi-soft state that allows it to be worked into shapes and inscribed upon with considerable ease. However, when left out to dry in the air and direct sunlight, it turns rock-hard.

In view of this malleable material's great abundance in close proximity to Burrows Cave, arguments for its importation from North Africa as ballast stones in the hulls of the ships which brought Old World artists to Illinois (see issue number 16) is unlikely.

As an experiment, I selected a piece of the Mudstone and returned to my motel room, where I used a piece of fine emery cloth to abraze one side of the stone. To my surprise, it worked up beautifully. It was easy to put a polished shine on its surface. I worked it with a nail and then a screwdriver. Marking with the nail and screwdriver was difficult, while the stone chipped and flaked at every stroke. Clearly, the rock was impossible to work once it had become air / sun dried.

I am convinced that large-scale production of the Burrows Cave stones (an estimated 6 to 7000 separate pieces) would not have been possible without some concerted and organized mass effort. In any case, the material for their manufacture was close at hand, as it still is today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this entire article is nothing but pure, 100%, Bovine Manure. I print it here that all might see what a fantasizer May is. Why he prints these dreams of his, we may never know. Harry Hubbard