In a recent paper in Public Archaeology, Joseph Wilson exposes the
Burrows Cave site in
as a ludicrous farce and says that archaeologists have been remiss in allowing
such silliness to go unanswered. I discuss Illinois ’s arguments in my March column in the Columbus Dispatch. Wilson
If you’re not an avid reader of the Ancient American, a magazine devoted to proving that Columbus was only the last in a long parade of African, Asian and European discoverers of America, you may not be aware of the wonders supposedly entombed within the depths of Burrows Cave – wonders that make what Howard Carter found in Tutankhamen’s tomb look paltry by comparison.
The extravagant claims of gold statues, gold sarcophagi, gold coins, bronze weapons, and parchment scrolls, however, have never been verified. Instead, of sharing any of these remarkable objects with the world, the discoverer instead has brought forth thousands of inscribed stone tablets bearing images of what appear to be various
Old World peoples, including
Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Romans.
writes that thousands of these tablets have been sold to “hopeful collectors.” Wilson
He goes on to offer Burrows Cave as “a lesson for aspiring archaeologists; proof of what happens when professionals turn their noses up at opportunities for engagement with community interests, no matter how obscure they may seem.”
I agree with
and, over the course of my career, I have made efforts to call attention to unsupported
claims about the past, including writing columns on various examples for the Dispatch. Wilson
I am sure that, because I am primarily a museum archaeologist rather than a full-time university professor, I am more sensitive to issues relating to public education than are my more academically oriented colleagues, but Wilson makes a strong case that all professional archaeologists should take more responsibility for setting the record straight when such controversies appear in public discourse.
Here are links to several examples of my responses to archaeological mis- (or dis-) information:
If you're interested in learning more about the Burrows Cave hoax, I recommend the following links:
Falling Into Burrows Cave
Burrows Cave: a modern hoax
2009 Burrows Cave Update