The Lost Treasure of King Juba
By Frank Joseph
There are some disclosures which radically revolutionize long-established
conceptions of the world in which we live. The subject of this story is one of
them, because it demolishes what Americans have been led to believe since their
country was founded; namely, that Christopher Columbus was its Discoverer. An
archaeological cave site in southern Illinois reveals instead that tens of
thousands of refugees sailing from the murder of their king and the invasion of
their homeland preceded him by nearly fifteen centuries. Preferring a perilous
transatlantic adventure toslaughter and slavery on land, they entrusted their
lives to the sea.
But there is another side to this tale. It tells of the cave's discovery,
subsequent twenty years of imposed secrecy, the looting of fabulous treasures,
often bitter controversy, and final disclosure. The second story is much older.
It describes what was once a splendid kingdom in the ancient Old World, a vital
part of the Roman Empire, once culturally rich and economically powerful, but
reduced to obscurity by war. Faced with almost certain death at home or escaping
over the uncertain open sea, some of its survivors became First Century
"boat-people". Most successfully completed the crossing to America only a few
years after the death of Jesus.
While the majority of professional archaeologists dismiss such transatlantic
voyages as imaginative fantasy, they are contradicted by a vast collection of
inscribed and illustrated stone tablets uncovered from a subterranean site in
the American Middle West. Often wonderful masterpieces of art, they comprise
literally thousands of portraits of men and women from a distant land in ancient
times. There are grim-faced soldiers and sagacious priests, sailors,
worshippers, kings and queens. They are accompanied by tablets inscribed in
several different written languages, some of which have already been partially
translated. And there is gold, a treasure trove King Solomon in all his splendor
would have envied.
Both stories seem too fantastic for belief. Yet, an abundance of hard and
historical evidence supports their credibility. The fabulously rich legacy
buried nearly 2,000 years ago was known only to the elders of a particular
Indian tribe, whose last chief broke the secret before he passed away. Even
then, the whereabouts of the cave were unknown until it was found by accident
twenty four years later. The sometimes acrimonious struggle to open the site and
unravel its significance has lasted almost as long.
That struggle still goes on. But the time has come for its story to be told.
It begins in the remote countryside of southern Illinois, a cultural backwater
practically forgotten somewhere between St. Louis, at the western border with
Missouri, and the state university, in Carbondale, forty five miles north of
Kentucky. The inhabitants would have it no other way. Their numbers are low and
disparate. Although general income and educational levels are below national or
even state averages, people are hard-working, bible-conscious, gun-owning
patriots residing mostly on old, isolated farms or in charming, unprosperous
little towns. Folks are friendly to but wary of strangers. They prefer their
largely anonymous, unvisited status. Attitudes can be provincial, territorial
and rural. Speech patterns echo from below the Mason/Dixon Line. Among
land-owners there is a highly developed sense of protective sovereignty
regarding the properties they own and on which they grow crops, mostly beans and
Southern Illinois has always been a refuge for rugged individuals. Local
history tells of frontier-like lawlessness dating back to gang wars with
criminal interlopers, like Tony Accardo or Al Capone, from Chicago, during the
1960s and "Roaring Twenties", respectively, and much earlier, to the Harpe
brothers. They murdered some fifty victims at Cave-in-the-Rock, on the Ohio
River, before Micajah and Wiley were beheaded in 1799.
Directly across the state from St. Louis, Richland is the next nearest county
to the Indiana border, in the east. Beyond its sparsely uninhabited hills and
ravines, squares of brown-green farmland spread like pieces in an agricultural
puzzle toward the horizon. In the extreme northeast corner of Richland County
bends an elbow of the River Embarras, branching into Illinois from its bigger
sister, the Wabash. Locals have for generations enjoyed exploring or picnicking
in the numerous caves that honeycomb the area. An infrequently visited site,
certainly unknown outside its immediate vicinity, was hardly more than a hole in
the ground. But the opening, about ten feet wide and eight feet from ceiling to
roof, was large enough for visitors to stoop through a kind of natural corridor
running about 15 feet into the side of a hill perhaps three-quarters of a mile
from the south bank of the Embarras.
At the far end of this seemingly insignificant cave was a small chamber,
natural or man-made, it was difficult to determine. Its walls were decorated
with what visitors assumed were "Indian signs"---apparently old carvings of
bizarre animals, inscrutable glyphs, and strangely costumed men, all rendered in
faded, primitive stick-form.
Obviously, the cave had been used by Kickapoo or Shawnee tribes, who
inhabited the Richland County region into the early 1800s. No one gave the place
a second thought until 1982. Certainly, professional archaeologists, if they
even knew it existed, never declared the site off-limits to public entry, nor
forbade anyone from doing what they pleased there.
On April 2, a 47-year-old "caver" entered its dark recesses out-fitted with
flashlight, pick-hammer and knapsack. He had come from his home in Olney, a
small town about 15 miles away. Born in West Virginia, Russell E. Burrows moved
after a stint in the U.S. Army during the Korean War to southern Illinois, where
he developed an interest in local history, and began amassing everyday objects
from the past.
Over time, he found ox shoes, square nails, iron pots, lanterns, and
other19th or early 20th Century artifacts for his growing collection. A
wood-worker by vocation, he could appreciate these hand-made items of
yesteryear. Perhaps something of the kind might be found in the curious little
cave he heard tell of. Finding it deserted, as it usually was, he paused
momentarily to scan an uncertain sky, as muted thunder boomed ominously in the
distance. He found the interior as described, a small, unimpressive natural
enclosure like others he knew. Proceeding to its apparent termination, Burrows
stepped into the close confines of the chamber. Perhaps it was artificial, but
why anyone would go to the bother of carving it out made no sense. Then again,
the Indians did things no modern white man could figure out. The glare of his
flashlight passed over a series of their crude drawings adorning the walls here
and there. They might make colorful additions to his rather lackluster
collection of common pioneer nick-nacks.
Clearly, there were no 19th Century hob-nails laying about. With the first
taps of his hammer, however, he noticed something strange. The impacts did not
make quite the solid sound he expected. They produced a lighter reverberation,
as though a hollow space lay on the other side. Curious to learn if a cavity did
indeed lie just beyond, he swung his pick against the face of the wall. As he
labored with a will, he was encouraged by what seemed like the echoes of his
hammer blows coming from some place deeper in the hill.
The work was difficult, but Burrows was a strong man, and after perhaps
fifteen minutes of sweated effort, the stones in the wall began to give.
Suddenly, they tumbled heavily away, thudding to the ground, and disclosed
another small chamber, this one unquestionably artificial. It was the opening to
a flight of stone steps leading down into the earth. He played his flashlight
over them, then carefully followed its illumination into the otherwise
impenetrable darkness. The flight of stairs was steep, and he descended
cautiously, side-ways, eventually reaching bottom. He estimated it was about
thirty feet from the entrance above. A long, dead-straight corridor disappeared
into the darkness before him. His bright flashlight lit up its still, dank
interior, as Burrows carefully entered.
The tunnel was perfectly hewn, and hung with very old-fashioned oil lamps at
regular intervals. They looked like something out of a movie he may have seen
once about ancient Rome. He proceeded cautiously. The atmosphere was heavy with
mystery, and snakes, especially deadly copper-heads, were known to favor such
subterranean environments. But he encountered no serpents. The muted sound of
his footfalls in the almost stifling confines was all he heard. The tunnel went
on and on, as he passed dozens of dead oil lamps on either wall.
Turning the beam of his flashlight at the low ceiling, he saw that its entire
length was covered with black smudges, the residue, apparently, of innumerable
torches that once passed this way, how long ago, he could not guess. After
Burrows had walked about 500 feet, the corridor seemed to come to an abrupt end.
Instead, it made a sharp right turn, as his flashlight pointed the way. It
illuminated another great length, running straight ahead beyond the white reach
of its flickering bulb.
He proceeded a few paces, when a low, open portal, minus a door, appeared
unexpectedly on his left. Ducking down under its low lintel, he entered a small
chamber, then almost at once staggered backward in surprise. Gleaming in the
harsh beam of his flashlight stood the five-foot-tall statue of a man wrought in
solid gold. Nor was this just the representation of any man. Its beneficent pose
and holes in the wrists of the outstretched arms clearly identified the figure.
A few feet behind the statue, to its left, was a raised platform perhaps three
feet high. On it had been laid a full-size sarcophagus, likewise executed in
Recovering from the shock of his discovery, Burrows breathlessly admired the
spectacular craftsmanship of both objects, but refrained from touching
them. He could hardly believe what he saw. Leaving the chamber, he found several
more in quick succession.
Across the floor of one were stacked edged weapons---a metal sword with
shield and battle-ax, together with a set of bronze spears individually ranging
from three to six feet in length. There was copper or bronze
armor---breast-plates and greaves, even helmets. Nearby, stood stone statuettes
of noble-looking men and women dressed in strange garb suggestive of the ancient
Nile Valley or Carthage. Stone and clay-fired jars or urns, some of them half as
tall as a man, were positioned in two corners at the far end of the room. A
number had long ago fallen over and broken open to reveal their
contents---leather or hide scrolls covered with an inscrutable written language.
Scattered among these jars were smaller oil lamps, like those attached to the
walls of the corridor, and paint pots.
A recessed shelf, cut into the stone cave wall, and supporting the sculpted
images of Egyptian-like deities, ran around the whole interior of the enclosure.
Against one wall were piles of perhaps 100 flat, black stones, each one engraved
with a human profile and unreadable inscription.
The faces portrayed a bewildering variety of men and women (mostly men
depicted as soldiers in Roman-style helmets, or priests in robes) with European
or Semitic facial features, but wearing the togas and uniforms of civilizations
long since past into history. Stepping into an adjacent chamber of similar
dimensions, Burrows noticed a vault cut into the rock face of the cave. It
flared in the glare of his flashlight with numerous piles of gold coins---what
was later to prove more than a ton's worth. This same vault contained a
quart-sized stone bowl filled with uncut diamonds.
Nearly faint with these discoveries, he played the flashlight in his
trembling hand over the far wall of the chamber, and saw at once that it opened
to another. It was much larger, about twenty by twenty five feet, at the center
of which lay a large stone sarcophagus. Inside was a gold coffin of superb
workmanship. Like the smaller compartments, enormous piles of black stones
emblazoned with lengthy, peculiar inscriptions, strange symbols, and the images
of both human beings and animals filled the crypt. The persons portrayed
were an impossible mix of apparent Romans, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Christians,
American Indians, even black Africans. Some of the animals depicted on the
stones, such as lions, elephants and camels, were not native to America, at
least before the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. Yet, here they were, depicted
in all their incongruity.
The unreality of this subterranean site was making him dizzy. He needed fresh
air, to get back into the upper world. The atmosphere was stiflingly close with
some nameless presence. Returning to the third chamber, he availed himself of as
much bounty as he could carry, then hurried at all speed, his bulging knap-sack
and sagging pockets clanking with gold coins and several dozen diamonds.
In moments, he was scrambling through the broken down wall, back into the
little chamber at the back of the cave. Burrows was elated by his incredible
good fortune. It was the find of a lifetime. Clearly, whatever this place was,
he thought, its importance and wealth were too great to leave unguarded. He
tried to reassemble the old wall hammered down to gain entrance, but anyone who
happened to see the re-positioned stones would know they were recently
dislodged. The cave, while rarely visited, was now especially vulnerable to
inquisitive persons like himself.
Others might find the break-in and loot the rest of the treasures.
Re-emerging into the open air, he was relieved to find himself still alone.
Since he could not hope to restore the collapsed wall to the aged condition in
which he found it, Burrows concealed the cave opening itself. His Korean War
experience in the Army had not been forgotten. He dragged shrubs and tree limbs
over the gaping hole to camouflage its appearance, then re-aligned large stones
to alter the face in the immediate surroundings. Within an hour, the cave was so
thoroughly disguised, anyone not intimately familiar with its vicinity would
never relocate the opening. Satisfied that his find was safely hidden under the
subtly tampered environment, he returned to his pick-up truck perhaps 200 feet
away. Afternoon declined toward evening. Deep shadows were already filling in
gullies and ravines. They obscured the location even more effectively than his
natural concealment of foliage and rocks.
The fabulous find was his by right of discovery, regardless who happened to
presently own the property on which it was found. And it would remain his so
long as he preserved the secrecy of its whereabouts. No matter who may someday
try to claim it, he mused to himself as he trudged through the lengthening
twilight toward his home, the site would hereafter and forever be known as
Nineteen years later, Russell Burrows publicly presented a detailed
description of the events of April 2 before an international archaeology
conference in the Vienna Art Center, Austria. "The cave itself is 535 feet deep
to its terminal breakdown," he said. "The down-angle is six degrees. The
artifacts which I recovered were located in the silt on the most part. However,
some were recovered from niches and shelves along the walls. Also to be seen are
lamps cut out of knobs of rock on the walls. There are several of these lamps,
since they seem to be positioned every fifteen or twenty feet." Remarkably,
these dimensions and features are similar to the Kubr-er-Roumia, King Juba II's
mausoleum from which his mummified body and treasure trove were removed ahead of
the Roman invasion of 44 A.D. The first professional investigators of his tomb
"found themselves in a long gallery about eight feet high and 6.5 feet broad.
There were niches along the walls which seemed as if they had been made to
hold lamps", according to historian, A. MacCallum Scott (p.173). Like its
southern Illinois counterpart, the royal Mauretanian sepulchral corridor "was
about 500 feet long". "The area above these lamps is blackened by smoke from the
lamps, which most likely burned animal fat or oil of some kind. I once lit ten
candles at some of the lamp positions, and then turned off my lights, and was
surprised that the area was well illuminated. In the largest area of the cave
are five statues made of the same black material as are the artifacts displayed
here. These statues are arranged in a semi-circle, and they are in appearance on
the order of Egyptian figures: the left foot forward and the left arm forward.
Held in left hand is a staff. Since these statues are some eight or more feet
tall, and are made of the black material, I will estimate their weight to be
four to six tons, this, since the black material is very dense and heavy.
"I also discovered that there are thirteen doorways cut into the walls of the
cave. These doorways are closed by cut and well-fitted blocks of stone, the
seams of which are sealed with a pitch or bees' wax. I removed one of the
blocks, and was amazed to discover that the sealed doorways were the entrance
into a burial crypt, which was about twelve feet square, with a stone bier in
the center. In this crypt, I found the skeleton of a male; this was determined
by the pelvic bone. On his skeleton was copper, gold and jewels, and lying on
the bier with him was his sword, ax and shield. There was, and still is, large
jars, one of which has fallen and broken. Inside the broken jar was to be seen
twenty or so rolled-up scrolls. I did not touch them, knowing full well that by
doing such, I could destroy them. They are still as I left them.
"The next crypt which I opened and examined was much the same as the first in
size and structure. However, the skeletal remains was that of a female and two
children. In the area of the heart of the woman's was embedded through the rib a
golden blade large enough to have penetrated the heart. It appeared to me that
since the blade, which was shaped like a large spear-point or blade, had become
'locked' in place by bone, so that, when the effort to remove it was made, it
was pulled loose from its shaft, and was left in place. The children each had a
large hole in their foreheads. Lying on the bier with the remains was two
ax-heads made of pure white marble. One of these axes fit the holes in the
children's' heads perfectly.
Also to be seen in this crypt is more of the large jars, but none are broken,
so I cannot report what is included in them. There is also much burial finery on
all of these skeletons.
"Further back and in a lower level of the cave is another burial crypt, which
is much larger and different, in that there is a sarcophagus in the center which
has a stone lid closing it. Inside is to be found a fine golden coffin much like
those seen in Egyptian burials. Inside the coffin is another, what appears to
be, mummy. I cannot state for certain that that is the case, because I did not
disturb the decaying cloth around the body. In this crypt, which was closed by a
round, rock, wheel-like device, which when the final cut was made, dropped into
a trough and rolled downward, closing the crypt, is a shelf cut out of the stone
walls. "There are many statues of what appears to be Amen-Ra, the Egyptian god.
There is also to be seen in this crypt many other artifacts, such as what
appears to be bronze spears of all sizes. Bronze swords and shields, as well as
other personal items. None of this material was disturbed by me, and the coffin
was closed, as well as the sarcophagus, and the crypt itself."
Listening to his matter-of-fact presentation delivered in a steady, West
Virginian drawl, the continental scientists assembled in Vienna's meeting hall
were stunned. Such a tale was utterly beyond belief. But there was more than
narrative to Burrows' fantastic story. Much more.
Article Related Photos
One of the 7,000 or more portrait stones removed from the
southern Illinois cave. This one appears to represent a military officer.
The exceptionally well-executed likeness of a high-ranking
from the southern Illinois cave.
The profile of a Semitic priest, as indicated by his ritual
pony-tail and Hebrew
inscription at left, although the inscription at bottom is Numidian,
a North African written language.
This Christ-like profile from the southern Illinois cave
features the Hebrew word for Yahweh at the top; a foliated cross at left, and,
beneath it, the glyph for Alexander Helios, the son of Queen Cleopatra who may
have led North African refugees to North America
in 41 A.D.
A gold coin from the southern Illinois cave features
emblem and a Numidian inscription.
This portrait of a soldier from the southern Illinois cave
features the representation
of a comet or meteor at the top. Bottom-right is the Phoenician numeral for
perhaps the age of the man depicted on the stone.
Judging from his helmet, this warrior portrayed on a stone
from the southern
Illinois cave belonged to the Roman Era equivalent of a "special forces" unit.
Copyright 2007 by Frank Joseph
All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.
"The Lost Treasure of King Juba" --- with 115 photos and illistrations of the
Cave's artifacts --- is available from amazon.com
The Lost Treasure of King Juba: The Evidence of Africans in
America before Columbus (Paperback)
by Frank Joseph
The story of a mysterious southern Illinois
treasure cave and its proof of the presence of Africans in North
America long before Columbus.
• Includes over 100 photographs of the artifacts
• Re-creates the historic voyage of King Juba and
his Mauretanian sailors across the Atlantic to rebuild their
society in the New World.
• Explains the mystery of the Washitaws, a tribal
group of African origin, first encountered by the Lewis and
In 1982 Russell E. Burrows, a treasure hunter in
southern Illinois, stumbled on a cache of ancient weapons,
jewels, and gold sarcophagi in a remote cave. There also were
stone tablets inscribed with illustrations of Roman-like
soldiers, Jews, early Christians, and West African sailors.
These relics fueled a bitter controversy in the archaeological
community regarding their authenticity, leading Burrows to
destroy the entrance to the cave.
Researching more than 7,000 artifacts removed from
the cave before it was sealed, Frank Joseph explains how these
objects came to be buried in the middle of the United States. It
started with Cleopatra, whose daughter was made queen of the
semi-independent realm of Mauretania, present-day Morocco, which
she ruled with her husband, King Juba II. Following the
execution of their son, Ptolemy, by Emperor Caligula, the
Mauretanians rebelled against their Roman overlords and made
their way into what is now Ghana. There they constructed a fleet
of ships for a transatlantic voyage to a land where they hoped
to rebuild their kingdom safe from Roman rule. They took with
them a great prize unsuccessfully sought by two Roman emperors:
Cleopatra's golden treasure and King Juba's encyclopedic library
of ancient wisdom.
Fully illustrated with many previously unpublished
photographs of artifacts retrieved from the southern Illinois
site, The Lost Treasure of King Juba is a compelling story that
could force us to rethink the early history of our nation and
the possibility that Africans arrived on our continent nearly
fifteen centuries before Columbus.
Other Books by Frank Joseph
Opening the Ark of the Covenant
by Frank Joseph and
There are no Coincidences
by Frank Joseph