Stunned archaeologists probe claims of giant skeletons in Nevada caves where they found a 15-inch sandal that had been worn down as well as massive handprints across the walls

April 4, 2024

Archaeologists are investigating claims about a long-lost group of giant humans who stood up to 10 feet tall and lived in caves in the southwestern US.

The entrance to Lovelock Cave in Nevada, where two miners accidentally stumbled upon the remains of dozens of ancient people - some of whom were reportedly abnormally tall.

Supersized human skulls, 15-inch sandals, and massive handprints have been uncovered in excavations inside a cave in Lovelock, Nevada since 1912 that have continued to spark the curiosity of scientists and the public more than a century.

The stories about these ‘Giants of Lovelock,’ came from Native Americas who told stories a brutal tribe of pale-skinned, red-haired invaders who waged war on the local tribes, before finally being trapped in a cave and exterminated.

These remains of shoes were found during excavations of the Lovelock Cave. They were made for feet that would have been the equivalent of size 29 in the US.

According to archaeologists, the story is likely an exaggeration of the facts or even an outright fabrication- but some of the pieces of evidence continue to encourage believers.

The entrance to Lovelock Cave in Nevada, where two miners accidentally stumbled upon the remains of dozens of ancient people – some of whom were reportedly abnormally tall.

These remains of shoes were found during excavations of the Lovelock Cave. They were made for feet that would have been the equivalent of size 29 in the US.

It all started when a pair of miners first discovered the gigantic remains in 1911.

They were there searching for guano, the excrement of birds or bats, which has long been a valuable source of fertilizer and an ingredient in gunpowder.

But as they dug deep down into the guano, these prospectors found more than they bargained for: more than 60 human skeletons.

And some of them were reportedly extraordinarily large – between seven and eight feet tall.

‘One of his great finds was a skeleton, found about twenty miles southerly of Lovelock, Nevada, showing that the body of which it was a framework, was exactly seven feet, seven inches tall,’ according to the 1935 biography of John T. Reid, a mining engineer who worked in Lovelock.

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, a member of the Paiute, was a historian. In 1883, she wrote a book about the Paiute that did not mention giants - but it did mention barbarians.

‘It is one of the ‘giant men’ of an ancient race of which skeletons were unearthed in Central Nevada.’

There is no evidence of this find, but excavating the cave in 1912 and 1924 revealed thousands of artifacts.

Many of these finds were as expected: baskets, duck calls, arrowheads, and ceremonial objects carved into the shapes of animals.

Chief Poito Winnemucca of the Paiute tribe was Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins's father. Their tribe was native to the area where Lovelock Cave was discovered.

But there were also some extremely odd findings, including gigantic sandals that appeared to have been worn.

These shoes, about 15 inches long, would translate roughly to a US size 29 shoe.

Radiocarbon dating later showed that human remains and plant material in the cave ranged from between 2030 BC and 1218 BC.

Another odd find was a handprint seemingly etched into the stone that appeared twice the size of an average human hand.

Reports from these excavations seemed to grow the size of the giants: As of 1931, they were reportedly 8.5 and 10 feet tall.

Remarkably, some of them had red hair, a stark contrast from the local Paiute tribe of Native Americans.

Though their existence may remain a mystery, the oral tradition may offer some clues.

Paiute tribes native to the area tell stories of a barbarian group called the Si-Te-Cah, a group that reportedly moved into the area 3,000 years ago.

According to Paiute mythology, the Si-Te-Cah then began waging war on them and their neighbors – and they also had red hair.

Accounts from 16th-century Spanish conquistador Pedro Cieza de León seemed to corroborate the existence of a fierce and mysterious group of red-haired barbarians.

He picked up a story in Peru of a race of giant men who ‘came by sea in rafts of reeds after the manner of large boats; some of the men were so tall that from the knee down they were as big as the length of an ordinary fair-sized man.’

This story is consistent with the Peruvian natives who traversed Lake Titicaca in woven-reed boats.

According to the Paiute legend, the tribes eventually banded together to fight the Si-Te-Cah.

They chased them into a cave, pelted them with arrows, and lit a fire at the mouth.

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, a member of the Paiute, was a historian. In 1883, she wrote a book about the Paiute that did not mention giants – but it did mention barbarians.

Chief Poito Winnemucca of the Paiute tribe was Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins’s father. Their tribe was native to the area where Lovelock Cave was discovered.

Some of the invaders were killed by arrows, some by fire, and some by asphyxiation from the smoke.

All of the Si-Te-Cah were killed in that skirmish, according to stories.

And there is indeed archaeological evidence of a large blaze at the mouth of the cave.

But some historians have different explanations for the evidence.

First of all, the ‘giant’ remains may have only been tall people, according to a University of Nevada study that showed they were only about six feet tall – not eight or 10.

A history book from Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, titled Life Among the Paiutes: Their Wrongs and Claims does not make any mention of giants – but it does make reference to barbarians.

And historians have pointed out that aging in dry, desert conditions can turn dark hair red, potentially explaining the red-haired remains.

Furthermore, historian Adrienne Mayor wrote in her book Fossil Legends of the First Americans that local entrepreneurs may have simply exaggerated the size of the human remains to drum up tourism in the region.

The history museum in Winnemucca, Nevada currently houses many of the artifacts found in Lovelock Cave.

A crowdfunding effort from 2014 to further investigate the caves only netted $10.