The Mystery of the Ancient Caskets Found in an Alabama Cave

Sara B
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(not Crump cave)Photo byKsenia KudelkinaonUnsplash

Strange coffins were found in the Crump Cave in Murphy´s Valley, Alabama, in 1840 on the land of Rev William N. Crump. The wooden coffins appeared to have been hollowed out by fire and then chiseled with stone or copper tools. Each coffin was 7.5 feet long, 14-18 inches wide, and 6-7 inches deep.

In 1840, Rev. William N. Crump, who was 22, decided to settle outside Oneonta in Blount County. He built a farmhouse and began to farm the land. The land Crump purchased included entrances to five caves. While he and some friends were hunting on his land in 1840, Mr. James Newman discovered Crump´s Cave.

Archaeologist Frank Burns described the cave as having:

“opening so small that a man could scarcely crawl through it.”

However, Crump reportedly found Native American artifacts inside the cave, such as beads, arrows, spears, copper items, stone axes, and almost 200 lbs of galena, an ore used in lead and silver. Yet that was not the most exciting discovery; he reportedly found skulls and wooden coffins hollowed out by fire and stone.

After the cave was discovered with artifacts, it is reported that many doctors went in and took the skulls to examine, and local neighbors also came and took what they wanted.

During the war, the cave was used to house refugees, and the cave was also excavated for saltpeter. The coffins were removed by Frank Burns, who was surprised that they were not cut up for firewood.

Frank Burns, also found more artifacts, such as a ladder to climb to a ¨rock house¨. The rock house was a roomy, dry place under overhanging stone cliffs, and he believed it also to be a burial site. The ladder was made of cedar, with seven or eight steps, each eighteen or nineteen inches apart, made by cutting an into the tree.

Eight coffins were sent to the Smithsonian, and they suggested they were possible troughs. It is reported that the Smithsonian placed these artifacts on display; however, there are conflicting findings.

One report states they are on display, and another states they are in a building that is no longer accessible, or they lost them; it is unclear.


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