The Mystery Cave – A Guide for the Reader

This book is concerned with an archaeological discovery that, when proven authentic, will overturn all our conceptions of American history before Columbus.

Burrows’ Cave (located in southern Illinois and discovered in 1982 by Col. Russell Burrows) is rich in artifacts that seem derived from the ancient cultures of Asia and the Mediterranean. There are also numerous metal objects, burials, and lots of inscriptions. The cave itself is extensively altered, with rooms, passages and sculptures hewn from the living rock.

The site is such an anomaly that it obviously must be examined with great care, attention and objective open mindedness; and it must be vigorously protected from the avaricious, the impatient, and the hidebound.

Most of the conventional archaeological establishment has dismissed the cave artifacts as impudent forgeries; this is only to be expected. Surprisingly, though, the heretical establishment has done the same.

Almost all the leaders of the diffusionist school, who have done such heroic work in bringing to light suppressed data concerning pre-Columbian contact between the Americas and the rest of the world, have chorused “fraud” about this cave. And yet it almost certainly is no fraud at all; certainly not one perpetrated by Burrows. Why, then, this resistance?

As the narrative of this book illustrates, the reason lies in the cave’s extreme strangeness. It not only contradicts the isolationist paradigm of the conventional Americanists, it even threatens the theories of the diffusionists (most of whom are Mediterranean-centered). No one’s pet patterns of world history readily explain the jumble of art styles, writing systems, and artifacts found in the cave. It throws everyone into confusion.

And so, with very few exceptions, all have branded the cave’s artifacts a hoax.

Moreover, the cave was unfortunate in its apostle. Col. Burrows did not beat the drum for his discovery; that was done by a self-taught student of local history named Jack Ward. Though untrained in any foreign language, he insisted that he could detect and decipher script on locally found stones.

All diffusionist epigraphers considered him deluded, and dismissed him. And the cave was tainted with this contempt.

Within a few years the cave will most likely be generally accepted as incontestably authentic, and everyone involved will have revised their memories of their own roles in the first decade after its discovery.

Now, while all is still fresh and in flux, it is important to record the history of human actions and responses. That is the purpose of this present book. It will provide archetypal examples of stubbornness, hasty judgment,
and intellectual avarice, as well as persistent endurance and the open-minded acceptance of uncomfortable evidence.

There are no unflawed heroes here, no hissable villains, no utter fools. Each of us, in the proper improbable circumstances, could fill any of these characters’ roles.

Let us learn from our colleagues in exploration, and consciously keep open the side doors of our minds.

This account has four narrators: 1) Fred Rydholm, who met Burrows in 1988, became convinced of his integrity, and has ever since acted on the premise that the cave is of immense importance; this book is a fruit of his devotion; 2) Russell Burrows, who discovered the cave in 1982, and whose stubbornness and caution have preserved it from despoliation or oblivion; 3) Virginia Hourigan, who very early recognized the cave’s importance, photographed scads of artifacts, and diligently showed them to all whom she thought responsible and receptive; 4) James Scherz, whose work in mapping Indian effigy mounds had prepared him to be open-minded, objective and rigorous.

This is a narrative of human events, a transcribed oral history of sorts, with, as a reward for the diligent reader, three final essays of interpretation and analysis. Also included are a chronology, an index with topic clusters, and a bibliography of horizon-expanding books.

A companion volume, Rock Art from Burrows’ Cave, is now being written, and will be published shortly. It is by James Scherz, and is a detailed compilation of data. It contains photographs and descriptions of approximately 115 of the artifacts, a correlation of corrosion patterns with original locations in the cave, and commentary on the art of many of the pieces. It also contains a long account by Burrows describing the cave (with a sketch map) and his experiences in exploring the cave and in dealing with the world of archaeology. A major theme of Scherz’ book is the long-standing practice, among Americanists, of deliberate data-suppression, whenever such data threatens the ruling paradigms. The two books are intended to complement each other, and provide a picture of the cave’s contents, setting and recent history, so that readers may reach their own informed conclusions regarding the cave’s importance.

More books will follow. After Burrows’ Cave is authenticated, it will engage our attention for the rest of our lives, and probably coax into open view innumerable other unthinkable facts.

With these two books the authors’ aim is to present a fair and accurate picture of the cave’s contents, setting and recent history, so that readers may reach their own informed conclusions regarding the cave’s importance.

— Buck Trawicky, Editor