In Memoriam of Dr. Warren Cook

July 25, 1925 to December 7, 1989

By Horatio Rybnikar

Warren L. Cook was the next scholar after John Ward to become involved with the Burrows Cave find and its first prominent professional investigator. Through this man, the Site's immense historical value took a quantum leap toward credibility. Such a necessary development could only have occurred through the impressive academic credentials and exceptional investigative skills he brought to the discovery.

Dr. Cook was something of a genius, with both written and spoken fluency in German, French, Portuguese and Spanish. He attended the Universidad Nascional Mayor de San Marcos, the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere, located in Lima, Peru. There, he earned his first Doctorate of Letters. He continued his education at Yale University where he obtained an M.A. and Ph.D. His award winning doctoral dissertation was published by Yale University Press and nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Subsequent research of pre-Conquest cultures in the Peruvian Andes gained him international acclaim and distinction among his academic peers.

He was a world traveler, often accompanied by the well known photographer, Warren Dexter. Mr. Dexter was also a cherished friend, who selflessly assisted the professor who was disabled since childhood by polio. Thanks to his companion's devotion and his own indomitable will, Dr. Cook overcame formidable personal obstacles to pursue his compelling research around the world. As such, he was one of life's genuine heroes, a living example to others of the conquering warrior spirit. Dr. Cook's expertise included determining the authenticity of ancient artifacts. He was, therefore, eminently qualified to assess the archaeological legitimacy of any objects retrieved from Illinois' Lost Tomb.

In the tragically short time during which he researched its artifacts, he established for Burrows Cave high standards of research which persist to this day. Thanks to Dr. Cook, the phenomenon was removed forever from mere speculation and brought squarely into the arena of authentic archaeology. He began his work with Russell Burrows in 1987, and because of his obvious professional skills, was soon after designated Project Director. He felt honored by the promotion and henceforward devoted tremendous energy toward unraveling the ultimate secret of the Cave.

In June and again in July of 1989, Dr. Cook was able to report in a letter to Burrows, "There is no doubt by that the many hundreds of stones would necessitate thousands of hours of skilled incising by a veritable platoon of inscribers...foreign to modern forgers...Burrows Cave ranks as one of the most important discoveries ever made in North American archaeology. Concerning the stones: Forging them would be virtually impossible, even for a specialist. The Burrows Cave carved and inscribed stones are not modern forgeries."

In his August 20th, 1989 letter to Burrows, Dr. Cook revealed his stunning interpretation of the evidence: "Everything I continue to learn from studying the subject confirms the probable accuracy of my deduction that the cave was the mausoleum for burying the noble dead of a Libyan-Iberian trading colony whose last Old World sovereign was the historically-known King Ptolemy I of Mauretania, the son of Juba II and Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony."

Tragically, this earth-shaking conclusion by one of the world's foremost scientists got no further than the few principle actors in the extra-archaeological drama surrounding the Burrows Cave discovery.  A researcher of the first order who only wanted his findings generally recognized, Dr. Cook was bitterly disappointed by the apparent refusal of the alleged land-owner of the Cave to acknowledge the professor's accomplishment in identifying the site's Old World origins.  During his two years of ground-breaking investigations, he was not accorded the simple courtesy of being allowed to visit the Cave.  The relatively few artifacts he had been permitted to examine became the focal-point of his life and would have become the crowning achievement of an illustrious career. 

Dr. Cook took the entire discovery over its first linguistic hurtles by accurately assigning phonetic letter values to the script found on the stones.  However, he was unable to reach a definitive decipherment, because his alphabet charts were faulty regarding several important letters.  Given more time, he almost certainly would have rendered a credible translation of the inscribed texts.

While Professor Emeritus at Castleton State College, Vermont, Warren Cook passed away in his 64th year.  Even more to his credit than the scholastic honors he accumulated in life, he well be remembered as the extraordinary Project Director who authenticated the Burrows Cave find beyond question -- an accomplishment made all the more inspiring by the difficult physical and personal obstacles he victoriously overcame.

Photograph of Dr. Warren Cook

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