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Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Burrows cave: African gold in Illinois

The story of the Burrows Cave is a story about archaeology, but also of human behaviour. It is the story of an alleged cave containing the tomb of an African king, having reach America (Illinois) in the first century AD – and the subsequent controversy the artefacts from this cave were able to make.

In 1982, Russell Burrows accidentally discovered a cave near his home town of Olney, Illinois. Hunting for discarded archaeological relics, a shallow cave was soon found out to lead into a subterranean corridor the likes of which you would not expect to find in rural Illinois. The passage way was lined with oil lamps, the ceiling black from smoke. The 500 feet long tunnel had several chambers along it – but what it contained, Burrows would rather unwillingly divulge. It is now known that Burrows claims to have found several inscribed stones, often containing profiles of people that look African, Egyptian, European, as well as American Indian. These have become the most famous billboard of the Burrows Cave artefacts and have been the centre of controversy. On first sight, they look crude – the work of an amateur. Preliminary analyses of their writings furthermore revealed a mix, if not mismatch, of various styles, words and languages that archaeologists and linguists quickly labelled as “obviously faked”. But these piecemeal analyses of the cave’s artefacts do not do the cave any justice. For one, Burrows found and removed many gold artefacts. These look genuine, contain the same mismatch of writing, but you can only wonder why a fraud, if Burrows were that, would use gold – which is costly to get to begin with. The Swiss writer Luc Buergin has since claimed that Burrows removed huge quantities of gold, had them melted, and then sold them, depositing a grand total of 15 million dollar in Swiss bank accounts. It indicates that Burrows did indeed get his hands on tremendous amounts of gold, and decided to sell them for their gold value – not archaeological value.

Since, it has also been uncovered that Burrows discovered funeral biers and even a complete golden sarcophagus. Though of tremendous value – to be compared with the golden sarcophagus of Tutankhamun – it was impossible to be removed from the cave by just Burrows, and as it turned out, his brother in law. Furthermore, Burrows was wary of the details of the law and was not aware whether he might face prosecution if he disturbed the human remains he found in the cave or if he tried to sell its contents. (cont.)

posted by DW  # 2:29 AM


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