Burrows Cave

Burrows Cave is the name given to an alleged cave site in a disputed location in Southern Illinois discovered in 1982 by Russell E. Burrows. Burrows says it contained a number of artifacts. Through the many inconsistencies that revolve around Russell E. Burrows' story of discovery and its findings, the cave and its contents are considered a hoax by mainstream archaeologists and some fringe archaeologists.


During the time of the discovery, it was thought that the alleged cave must have been located in Richland County somewhere near the town Olney, Illinois where Burrows resided at the time. Burrows claimed that he did not want to give away the location of the cave because he believed that the cave would be robbed of its ancient treasures.


Burrows says he discovered the cave while hiking along the hillside miles away from the Ohio River, where he later claims that he was searching for buckles from the Civil War era and pioneer horseshoes with his metal detector. Burrows says that he came across a hole into which he fell that led him into the mysterious cave full of priceless ancient artifacts. The cave was said to have contained numerous archaeological artifacts, including carvings, coins, and other items. Many of the purported artifacts are said to have inscriptions in various ancient languages such as Phoenecian and Iberian, but the inscriptions are generally meaningless.

Cave as "tomb"Edit

Burrows claims that the cave is a tomb holding the artifacts and remains of 13 crypts. To date, nobody outside Burrows's immediate circle has claimed to have been inside the cave, and many of the so-called artifacts have been revealed as forgeries. The cave and its artifacts are widely considered to be a hoax or fraud,[1][2][3][4] even among proponents of other pseudoarchaeological theories such as Barry Fell.[5] The idea has gained some traction within proponents of Mormon archaeology[6] and hyperdiffusionism advocates such as Frank Collin (writing as Frank Joseph).[7][8]


Burrows and the cave were one of the subjects of the second season "Grand Canyon Treasure" episode of America Unearthed[9][10] and the show Holy Grail in America, both produced by the History Channel.

Thomas Emerson, the Illinois state archaeologist and former head of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency warned that the claims being made by Burrows cave proponents were sensational, and not backed by solid evidence.[11]

With no evidence of the cave and its existence, many archaeologists quickly dismissed Burrows and the alleged cave.

Phoenician ship scenarioEdit

Until about 1993, the predominant Burrows Cave scenario involved Phoenecian and Libyan (North African) colonists. Part of the evidence for this involved a stone tablet supposedly depicting a Phoenician vessel. Frank Joseph, one of the key figures involved with the cave, reproduced this in his book The Lost Treasure of King Juba: The Evidence of Africans in America before Columbus alongside an image of an actual Phoenician vessel that had been used by an associate of Burrows who had originally identified it as Phoenician. In doing so he cropped the image from the Burrows stone making the paddle end of a steering oar unidentifiable but leaving the steering oars that are shown on what he calls (and the artist depicts) as the prow of the boat.

The anthropologist and geographer George F. Carter, a supporter of the concept of trans-cultural diffusion, commented on the image saying

"The 'author' did not recognize the paired oars, and hung an 'impossible' oar over the bow. All others equally botched up. Fanciful stern pieces...Oar over bow - crude fakery by an ignoramus in the world of ships."[4]


The image used to identify the ship as Phoenician actually is dated to around 700 BCE, but Joseph described it as dated 170 BCE, possibly because around this time Burrows Cave was being portrayed as the destination of Mauretanians, including "exiled Romans, Africans, Celts, Christians and Jews"[12] fleeing the Romans taking with them an supposed treasure belonging to King Juba II.[4]


  1. ^ Kleen, Michael (2010-01-01). Haunting the Prairie: A Tourists Guide to the Weird and Wild Places of Illinois. Black Oak Media. p. 131. ISBN 9780979040146. Retrieved 2014-01-20 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Troy Taylor; Mark Moran; Mark Sceurman (2005). Weird Illinois: Your Travel Guide to Illinois' Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling Publishing Company. p. 38. ISBN 9780760759431. Retrieved 2014-01-20 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Feder, Kenneth L (2010). Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology: From Atlantis to the Walam Olum. ABC-CLIO. p. 49. ISBN 9780313379185. Retrieved 2014-01-20 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b c Wilson, Joseph AP (2012). "The Cave Who Never Was: Outsider Archaeology and Failed Collaboration in the USA". Public Archaeology. 11 (2): 75–93. doi:10.1179/1465518712Z.0000000007.
  5. ^ Fell, H. B. (1987). Detecting Fraudulent Inscriptions. Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications, 16: 24. [1]
  6. ^ "True Suppressions 3: Burrows Cave, "Newark Holy Stones, "Sopher Plates"; Fakes as Orthodox Science Claims-Or - True Suppressions?". S8int.com. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-12-13. Retrieved 2014-01-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Joseph, Frank (2009). Unearthing ancient America. ISBN 9781601630315. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  9. ^ "America Unearthed: Grand Canyon Treasure Full Episode - America Unearthed". HISTORY.com. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  10. ^ "Review of America Unearthed S02E05: "Grand Canyon Treasure"". JasonColavito.com. 2013-12-29. Retrieved 2014-01-21.
  11. ^ Rutland, Reece (Dec 21, 2013). "Marion County to appear in America Unearthed episode". Centralia Morning Sentinel.
  12. ^ Meador, S. 2004. Untitled Review. "Rambles: A Cultural Arts Magazine", 3 January 2004 [2]

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 38°44′N 88°5′W / 38.733°N 88.083°W / 38.733; -88.083