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Lovelock Cave


Lovelock Cave is a North American archaeological site also known as Sunset Guano Cave and Horseshoe Cave. The cave is about 150 feet long and 35 feet wide. Lovelock Cave is one of the most important classic sites of the Great Basin region because the conditions of the cave are conducive to the preservation of organic and inorganic material. It was the first major cave in the Great Basin to be excavated, and the Lovelock Cave people are part of the University of California Archaeological Community's Lovelock Cave Station.

The large rock shelter is north of modern-day Humboldt Sink. It was first a rock shelter, but at some point, an earthquake collapsed the overhang of the mouth. The dry environment of the cave resulted in a wealth of well-preserved artifacts that provide a glimpse of how people lived in the area. People occupied Lovelock Cave for over 4,000 years, but as early as 2580 BC. A wealth of knowledge pertaining to life on the Great Basin has come from this important site because many unique artifacts have been successfully recovered.

The ancient cave was first used by the Northern Paiutes thousands of years ago. When they, and other tribes who lived in and around Nevada’s Great Basin, moved locations as seasons and conditions changed, Lovelock Cave (and others like it) was used for shelter and storage of clothing and raw materials and supplies, among other purposes. In 1911 two miners were hired to mine for bat guano from the cave to be used as fertilizer. The miners were aware of the artifacts but only the most interesting specimens were saved. In the spring of 1912, the Museum of Anthropology, University of California archeologists were sent to recover any materials that remained.

The most renowned discovery at Lovelock Cave was a cache of eleven duck decoys. The remarkable decoys were made from bundled tule, a long grass-like herb, covered in feathers and painted, and were dated at 2,250 years old. All of these rock shelters are special, but Lovelock Cave is significant thanks to the thousands of American Indian artifacts uncovered there.

The cave was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 24, 1984

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A 52 Weeks of Fun Fascinating Fact about Lovelock Cave

According to Paiute oral history, the Si-Te-Cah or Sai'i is a legendary tribe of red-haired cannibalistic giants. Mummified remains of a man "six feet six inches tall" were discovered by guano miners, aiding belief in the Paiute legend.

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