Burrows Cave

From Fake Archaeology
Jump to navigation Jump to search

By Chase Livingston

Burrows Cave is an alleged cave along the Little Wabash River in Illinois. The cave along with the thousands of artifacts inside it was found by a man named Russell Burrows in 1982. The artifacts brought forth from the cave were said to be from ancient cultures. With time, archeologists question whether or not these artifacts were legitimate or not based on Burrow's credentials.[1] The story of the infamous Burrows Cave is a perfect example of how someone can try to change history for their own personal wealth and fame. While not changing the history books with his discovery of the cave and artifacts inside it, he wrote himself down in history for one of the most popular pseudo archeological stories in recent time.

What Happened

While walking along a river in southeastern Illinois, he stumbled across a cave that piqued his curiosity. As he walked in, he claimed to find thousands of ancient artifacts that were created thousands of years ago by ancient societies that may have roamed the areas in their time. The artifacts varied in languages and depictions of creatures over multiple time periods.[2] When coming out with this information to the public, he got quite a bit of suspicion wondering where the actual location of the cave was. When asked about the whereabouts of the cave, he claimed that he blew it up with dynamite closing the entrance to the cave. He claimed to have done this to make sure that the treasures inside never get found again and that he will be the only one claimed with the discoveries.[3] Upon showing Wayne May, the founder of Ancient American Magazine and Frank Joseph, the publication editor to the said cave that he found the artifacts in. With further findings, Burrows then told them that the cave they were brought to was a different cave that was covered, yet Burrows still claimed that there were more artifacts inside the cave.[1]

Russel Burrows

Born in Richwood, West Virginia in 1935, Russell Burrows claims to be a retired Army Ranger that was trained in Guerrilla Warfare and prison guard by profession. yet these claims have been disputed as well as his claims to treasure in the cave. Professionals find it hard to find any reason to believe Burrows, seeing that most of the artifacts that were presented at the time looked like high school projects at best.

Frank Joseph

Frank Joseph, formerly known as Frank Collin, was a former Neo-Nazi (an individual who supports the views of Adolf Hitler). He led a white power march in Skokie Illinois where he was arrested and sent to prison. When he got out of prison, he got a job as the editor of Ancient America Magazine. Through working with the magazine, he heard about Burrows and his story about the cave with tons of gold, skeletons, and ancient artifacts. He arranged a meeting with Russell Burrows to go over his claims of his findings. When going to see the cave that he said he found the artifacts he then claimed that the site he brought him to was not the real site of the discoveries, but the actual site was somewhere else on private property. to this day only Frank Joseph and Russell Burrows are of the few people to see the actual site that is based on his story.

=What was found

The artifacts that were presented by Burrows were said to be from many centuries ago and from various cultures. From ancient Egyptian depictions to Roman Gods to Biblical depictions with Hebrew writing. All the presented evidence of ancient cultures were easily critically observed making sure they had any legitimacy. The artifacts ranging in times and cultures did not fit any historical or archeological consistency.[4] Many of the Gods on the artifacts are from different religions and cultures that do not follow any part of history having them been found in Illinois together in the same cave. Most of the artifacts being stone tablets had a multitude of languages that included Egyptian, Sumerian, Greek and Hebrew.[4] None of these having any history of being in the Americas at the time. The tablets also had depictions of Phoenician boats and Christian symbols as well. There was also treasure, like relics and gold that were supposedly found in the caves. Burrows said that there were thousands of treasures that were surrounded by skeletons with jewelry and goblets. Many of the stone tablets and artifacts were sold at auction and to private collections. Some people do speculate that these artifacts were put there by past native American tribes that may have made them.

=Main Takeaway

Burrow's Cave and its artifacts in most professional views was clearly a hoax due to many reasons. The first reason that the cave was most likely a hoax was due to the fact that the evidence presented to officials was of poor quality. The stone tablets seemed like the quality of being created from household objects giving it a lot less credibility. Another reason that the cave is considered a hoax is because of the various cultures involved in the claims. The fact the Burrows was claiming that Egyptian and Greek cultures being in the Americas does not follow with any other archeological evidence or history.[5] The last reason that the artifacts are a hoax is due to the time periods of the cultures. there is not archeological evidence to say that both Egypt and Greece roamed the Americas at their times of power. Having all of these factors combined into one single cave full of artifacts is a hard one to argue any legitimacy. It is mainly believed that Burrows created these artifacts by himself and claimed that he found them in a cave while he was hunting down the river. He then found a blocked cave or blew up the entrance to a cave that he found. He then tried to create a fake sense of history behind them. The main thought is that he made these to sell to auctioneers and private collectors to make some real money. Burrows knows that artifacts like these go for a pretty penny. He eventually ended up selling these at auction anyway. he also wanted the fame of finding a very important archeological site that could change the history of the country forever.


There are many reasons a person would want to create a hoax from thin air. this could include money, fame, or religious fervor. These can vary in motives for different hoaxes, yet Russell Burrows seemed to be after multiple.

Money With the discovery of extremely old artifacts, there is always a sense or rarity behind it. With time, older artifacts wither and deteriorate. Finding ancient tablet and treasures that have been hidden or thousands of years is seen by collectors and auctions as a high valuable item. These auctions and private collectors will pay hundreds or thousands for these kinds of finds. Burrows sold many of his discoveries to auctions and collectors making thousands. Although, thought to be fakes, the story of the Cave has become famous meaning the artifacts actually might be worth something due to its history in pseudo archaeology.

Hyper diffusion Hyper diffusion is the thought that all major cultures come from one original major race or society. This idea is completely false in the fact that there were only major societies that expanded the world. In the case of Burrows Cave, hyper diffusion is seen in the fact that Burrows makes these artifacts to make a statement that Native Americans did not first cultivate the Americas. This could be related to racism at heart. These claims state that only a society outside of natives in the Americas could create such an archeological site and artifacts. Lastly these claims support the fact that Native Americans were initially from either Egypt or Greece and evolved over time.

Fame Many of the artifacts that were found in the cave were based off of many famous archeological artifacts that have been placed into museums or sold at auctions to private sellers for large amounts of money. These artifacts varying in cultures ranging from early Phoenician boat depictions to ancient Egyptian scriptures. These items would be a huge discovery to American history as well as Egyptian and Greek history. These could change history in the there was exploration of the Americas before Christopher Columbus. This could implement Burrows into history as the one to discover these findings, locking his place in the history books.

Media With the discovery of a cave with untold treasures and ancient artifacts, it could make for a very great story. With the first Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark movie was released the year before Burrows came out with the cave story. This movie tells a story of an explorer that hunts for lost treasures or ancient artifacts, usually in caves.[5] When taking this movie's popularity in to count, it had a very large influence on the people at the time. There are very clear resemblances between the two stories. A story of a man finding thousands of ancient treasures and artifacts could lead to another great story or movie. The Indiana Jones movie was growing in popularity and planning in making more movies. Burrows story could easily be made into a Indiana Jones movie based on his discovery, making his name more famous. rather than making another Indiana Jones movie based on the story, they could make shows, movies and wrote books based on the story either fictional based on the story or a biographical story that actually go over what takes place. Although these could lead to great movies, shows, documentaries, or books, it would be difficult to have any real archeological evidence behind some of these media since the story is mainly seen as a hoax.

How it was Received

Archeologists In the archeologist community, this story was easily considered a fraud by professionals. The main thought behind the story was to try to auction of the hoax artifacts as legitimate items that would go for big bucks. There was no real evidence to back up any of his claims that there were ancient remains of skeletons, gold treasures and archeological artifacts found in a cave off a river in southeastern Illinois.[1] There are very few in the archeologist community that have even addressed Burrows. The artifacts presented were clear fakes, stated to look like they were made by a high schooler. The artifacts being from various cultures and time periods is a clear indication that these have no real historical relevance behind them.

Pseudo Archeologists Based on the pseudo archeologist community see his claims as possible. There are many other stories of people finding artifacts like Phoenician boat drawings o stone tablets found in caves. This meaning that it is possible for there to be other tablets out there with more drawings on them. The treasure could be related to pirates that may have found the inlands and buried their treasure in Illinois. The tablets with Hebrew inscriptions could be related to a lost tribe of Israel.[4] Although the story of Russell Burrows finding any of these treasures in a cave while hunting is a clear hoax, some still think that there is still lost ancient treasure and artifact buried in a cave in southeastern Illinois.

Mormons According to the official website of the Mormon church (rather the church of Latter-day Saints), the supposed Burrows Cave houses a collection of artifacts. Mainly, the discovery was highlighted by it containing 13 individual crypts attributed to Phoenician and Libyan colonists to the region. [6] Claims from believing Mormons say that the cave was used to house exiles from all over the European continent, namely Jews, Celts, and Romans. These include golden tablets and statues, written to be close to the liking of Egyptian tombs. It should be known that the LDS church strongly urges individuals to ignore these claims as the cave has no evidence of existing, let alone the holy contents inside.[7]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Whitetrashpeg 2015 Russell Burrows: The Bizarre Adventures of Olney, Illinois' Own Indiana Jones. Week In Weird. Planet Weird. http://weekinweird.com/2012/09/23/indiana-jones-olney-illinois/, accessed December 6, 2019
  2. Lepper, Bradley T. 2013 Archaeology: Magic Caves in Illinois and Other Archaeological Myths. The Columbus Dispatch. The Columbus Dispatch. https://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/science/2013/03/03/magic-caves-in-illinois-and-other-archaeological-myths.html, accessed December 6, 2019
  3. Joltes, Richard E. 2001 Critical Enquiry. Burrows Cave. https://www.criticalenquiry.org/burrowscave/burrows.shtml, accessed December 6, 2019
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Wilson, Joseph A P 2012 The Cave Who Never Was: Outsider Archaeology and Failed Collaboration in the USA. Public Archaeology 11(2): 73–95
  5. 5.0 5.1 White, Paul 1997 Saga of Burrows Cave. https://www.illinoiscaves.com/saga_of.htm, accessed December 6, 2019
  6. Nelson, Rian. “Burrows Cave Egyptian Artifacts.” Book of Mormon Evidence, 22 Oct. 2020, https://bookofmormonevidence.org/7028-2/.
  7. “Find Answers.” FAIR, https://www.fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Question:_What_are_the_Burrows_Cave_artifacts_and_are_they_related_to_Mormonism%3F.