#2 By Way of Introduction – 1987-91

Written by Fred Rydholm

Each year archaeological finds are made all over the world, and occasionally sensational discoveries occur, ones that excite archaeologists and the public both. In such a case, it takes a few years for the site’s significance to be assessed and for full details to reach the public press and the museum displays, but the world, if it cares, knows of it fairly soon.

For example, the March 1991 issue of Connoisseur magazine tells of a major archaeological find from southern Russia. The article is entitled “Golden Hoard From a Lost Tribe,” by Peter Dragadze.

Dragadze describes the discovery of an intact, and rich, burial mound, containing a female skeleton adorned with gold bracelets, rings and necklaces. “It is a micro-miracle of history. There, on a female skeleton in the black earth of Rostov-on-Don, lay the glittering gold of the Sarmatians. She rested so peacefully with her superb buried treasure.” The Sarmatians were a tribe who lived in south Russia from around 400 BC to the fourth century AD. Many of their graves have been unearthed, but they are rarely intact. To archaeologist Vladimir Guguev, who discovered the unplundered grave in 1987, it was “the most glorious moment of his professional life.” Dragadze concludes that “only in Russia could such a story be a scoop to this day.” Yet this discovery, though rich in detail, does not stun or befuddle the academic mind. The Sarmatians fit into the overall established diagram of world history.

The cave discovered by Col. Burrows, on the other hand, is a disturbing and pattern-threatening enigma. If authentic, and if acknowledged, it will compel the rewriting of world history.

This cave contains burials as resplendent as those of the Russian discovery. The number and quality of the Illinois site’s artifacts could make them even more important than the Russian find. The Illinois site contains interred skeletons which appear to have been completely undisturbed since death, and they are entombed in crypts cut out of solid limestone deep in a cave system.

The Russian graves and the American graves could even be of people who had the same origin, in the area around the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea.

The American graves are a huge anomaly: they do not fit into history as we think we know it. Because of this, the whole matter the artifacts, the site, and the discoverer himself – have met with every attitude from enthusiastic acceptance to cautious skepticism to utter and complete disbelief. Several well-known authorities have labeled this magnificent discovery a fraud. If it is a fraud, it is certainly one of the most colossal in history, and what purpose does it serve? Likewise, if it proves authentic, it has to be the greatest and most enlightening archaeological find in the history of North America. No single mass of evidence could possibly turn so many heads, jumble so much history or raise so many questions as this one right in the very heart of the United States.

A small number of people are diligently trying to study the cave and its artifacts, trying to frame the proper questions, seeking sources of answers. But most authorities (both the conventional and the unorthodox) who have heard of the cave are mistrustful and suspicious. Some scholars are intrigued, and want to learn more, but do not want their names associated with this site.

Let us examine this mistrust, and the many complex turns of fate and event which, for a decade, have kept this remarkable cache of ancient history from public awareness.

I (Fred Rydholm) will relate the history of the cave’s discovery and the events of the past decade, as best I can piece them together from the accounts of Russ Burrows and the other participants. Where possible, these persons contribute their own narratives, in their own words.

Throughout the book, this startling archaeological find will be referred to as Burrows’ Cave, after its discoverer Russell Burrows. The systematic study of the cave and its many artifacts will be called “the project.” As of this writing (late winter, 1992) official study of the Cave has still not yet begun.