The “Lost Race of Giants” episode is already available for streaming on the Travel Channel’s website, part of their continuing effort to destroy their own ratings, so I took a look at what two ignorant doofuses came up with as they searched for giants in South America.
The show opens with “history buff” Casey Keefer (who has no history training) and drone enthusiast Chris Keefer (whose technology hobby is irrelevant to our subject) visiting Ecuador, where Casey alleges that the country is said to be home to a “colony” of giant “humanoids”—they aren’t fully human in this telling—though he omits that these rumors exist primarily in hoax newspaper articles, other pseudo-documentaries from the Discovery Communications family of networks, and online fringe websites. After stating that there have been stories of giants for “hundreds, even thousands of years” (apparently because they do not know that Greek myths and the Bible date back thousands of years), they allege that a giant skeleton was discovered in the Julcuy River valley in December of last year. To investigate giants, the brothers… well, you can already guess.
The Keefer brothers enlist the former host of the History Channel’s failed series Search for the Lost Giants, Jim Vieira, to tell them lies about giants. The brothers call Vieira the “world’s foremost expert on giants” and say that the title is “impressive.” Let’s stipulate that Vieira’s expertise is specifically in nineteenth century newspaper hoaxes and mistaken local history accounts reporting the alleged discovery of giants, since he has never seen nor examined the remains of a giant, nor has he ever found a real giant. He has mistaken Victorian sensationalism for facts and took stories meant as goofy humor and tall tales of wonder for reality. Vieira claims that his method of research involves “comparative analysis” of myths, legends, and newspaper hoaxes. This is not really an appropriate way to hunt for giants, any more than we could find talking animals by comparing “ubiquitous” myths that animals can talk. Since I have found and translated texts about giants that even Vieira hasn’t read, and have identified his many errors, I guess that makes me as much the “world’s foremost expert” as he is.
Vieira claims that legends have to have a physical reality, which is false, and the brothers claim that the recently discovered Asian hominin species known as the Denisovans are the real giants. Vieria says that the large tooth size of the Denisovans (as big as those of a cave bear) means that they must have been giants, (though it really only implies that they had robust jaws. He falsely claims that our only evidence of the Denisovans is two teeth. There are actually a handful of other bones, including a jawbone whose discovery was announced in Nature this spring (full text here). The jawbone did not belong to a giant, and the scientists who reported on it said that it was similar in size to those of other Pleistocene Homo species. The normal-sized jaw had only 14 teeth, against the 16 found in an anatomically modern humans (32 total), accounting in part for the larger size of the teeth. Vieira claims that all giants are of “one race” and the show implies that this “race” is Denisovan.
The Keefer brothers then travel to see the bones of the “giant” found in the town of Julcuy in the interior of Ecuador. According to Casey Keefer, the skeleton has not been fully excavated or reported in the scientific literature, which its excavators later confirm. They meet with Theofilos Toulkeridis, a geologist, and Florencio Delgado, an archaeologist, both of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, who tell the Keefers that they found skeletons “taller than us today. They are our first giants.” However, later in the show Toulkeridis says that only one skeleton was large in size, contradicting this statement.
Delgado tells them that a local man uncovered the skeleton below a Valdivian layer from 5,000 BP (i.e., before present—c. 3,000 BCE), but the Keefers and the producers don’t understand him, misreport his clearly spoken date as 5,000 BC, and then state that a “civilization of giants” existed two thousand years prior. The skeletons were found in a layer dated to around 5,000 BCE, but the show places it wrongly at 7,000 BCE. The producers simply can’t understand Delgado’s Ecuadoran accent, and their subtitles misstate his words. That shows exactly how much effort anyone put into this production.
Toulkeridis estimates the height of the skeleton at seven feet, but the body has not been fully measured or studied. An on-screen graphic says that the femur measured 24 inches and the tibia 21, but no full measurements are given. Toulkeridis says no other giant bodies have been found in the area, so the Keefers falsely conclude that the body belongs to an immigrant from “somewhere else” rather than a person suffering from a hormonal condition or other medical issue that might have led to gigantism.
I will give Code of the Wild credit for this: This is the first time any show has actually had a large skeleton to show, and that is at least better than any other in its field. However, the “giant” still falls within the reported range of regular humans (being smaller than many modern basketball players), so this does not constitute evidence of a lost race of giants in the mythical sense. The South American giants of myth were said to be so big that a normal human stood only as high as the giants’ knees (Pedro Cieza de Leon, First Part of the Chronicle of Peru 52). The failure to define “giants” means that men like Vieira can claim virtually anyone among the 50 percent of humans who are, by definition, above average might be “giants.”
The brothers managed to damage their own argument by gradually expanding the size of the Julcuy skeleton over the hour, until it becomes “almost eight feet” when it had been estimated at “around” seven feet. As the hour progresses, they also assert that the body belongs to a separate “species,” though Delgado told them no such thing.
The brothers next talk to a local about oral traditions of giants in the Llanganantes National Park rainforest of Ecuador. Vieira claims that the rainforest contains a megalithic wall made by a “pre-Flood race of giants” which was “melted” with high-tech tools. (Why melted? To cover the fact that the rocks aren’t separate but are connected to each other.) You will remember this Ecuadoran wall because the Science Channel did a pseudo-documentary in which Bruce Fenton claimed that the geological formation was not natural. The brothers don’t seem to understand Vieira’s biblical worldview, or else ignore the allegations that Noah’s Flood was a real geological event.
Two long segments follow the brothers as they trek through the park to the wall. They contain no information but eat up about a third of the show.
When they arrive at the alleged wall, even on camera from a distance, the naturalness of the stones seems apparent. A landslide sheered off part of a hill, and the underlying stone contains cracks and fissures and layering that resemble irregular cyclopean stonework, but only in a superficial way. Chris Keefer doesn’t believe that the fissures could be natural because they have too many straight lines and “hard” angles. He has apparently never seen naturally occurring geometric patterns like the Giant’s Causeway or even the Rock Wall of Rockwall, Texas.
Since the two men have difficulty understanding the difference between cyclopean construction and natural cleavage, they claim that rocks that have, as obviously as a camera can capture, split apart are actually placed next to one another by giant hands so cunningly that they fit together perfectly. Maybe it is just because I grew up in areas where eroded walls of rocks are rather common, both from glacial action and from the blasting done to cut highways through hills, I am not convinced that the latticework grooves could only be the result of artificial construction. The Keefers ignore Vieira’s claim that the rocks are melted and instead imagine them to be stacked stones in the manner of Sacsayhuaman, the famed Peruvian fortress.
The two brothers neglected to bring a geologist with them, though they had one with them in Julcuy and they somehow managed to get a camera crew out there, so they climb the rockface and simply speculate about how hard it would be to build the wall. They wonder if it is part of a hidden pyramid, or if it conceals “something important.” They make no effort to walk around and find out.
After returning to the ground, they look around for more alleged buildings and claim that small cracks and grooves on another rockface are actually brick-like stacked stones. Tweedledee and Tweedledum then claim that the small cracks mean that the “structure” was built hundreds of years before the large pyramid, before the giants developed the “technology” to build a pyramid of massive size. The towering castles of speculation are crowned with the ignorance brought by two cable hosts who have absolutely no comprehension of the topics they are discussing. They make people like Scott Wolter and Giorgio Tsoukalos look knowledgeable by comparison.
The show does not bother to ask for an expert opinion on the supposed wall—because they know what the experts would say—and instead end the show by asking a long series of leading questions designed to suggest that there is a “race” of giants who formerly occupied the country. They then threaten to do a follow-up episode if someone finds real evidence of giants in Ecuador. They could, of course, have spent time and money to find some, but that would undercut the ethos of cable TV, which is to parachute in, shoot everything in a couple of days, and get the hell out before the hotel bill gets too high. And heaven forfend that any of that sweet, sweet ad revenue go toward doing actual science, which might risk undercutting the whole venture.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.