In 1924, archaeologists found the remains of red-haired giants, the Si-Te-Cah of Piaute folklore, in Lovelock Cave, Nevada. Is this fact, fiction or legend?
Lovelock Cave in Nevada was first discovered in 1913, when prospectors found a huge deposit of bat guano in this cave. Since guano is the basis for saltpeter, the main ingredient in gunpowder, the value of the find was obvious.
Miners soon found other buried treasure beneath the mounds of guano however – artifacts and even the remains of what appeared to be red-haired giants known as the Si-te-Cah of local Paiute legend. In 1924, an archaeological expedition arrived from Berkeley University, and the rest is history.
The Prehistory of Lovelock Cave
Lovelock Cave is located approximately 20 miles south of modern-day Lovelock, NV. It was previously known as Horseshoe cave because of its U-shaped interior. The cavern is approximately 40 feet deep and 60 feet wide.
It’s an ancient cave, predating humans arrival on the continent. In prehistoric times, it lay underneath the giant inland Lohontan Lake which once covered much of western Nevada. Geologists have determined that the lake’s currents and wave action formed a shelf, which in time became a cave. It’s here that the supposed remains of the Si-te-Cah were discovered in 1924.
Many Native American tribes from the Northwest and Southwest have related legends of the red-haired giants and how their ancestors fought terrible wars against them after the first encounter about 15,000 years ago.
Even the Aztecs and Mayans have recorded their encounters with a race of northern giants when they ventured out on exploratory expeditions. Their burial sites have been reported on almost every continent. Who were these giants unearthed in Virginia, New York State, Tennessee, Arizona and Nevada?
The Paiute Legend of the Si-Te-Cah
The Paiutes, a Native American tribe indigenous to Nevada, told early white settlers about their ancestor’s battles with ferocious, white red-haired giants who were already living in the area when their ancestors first arrived.
The Piautes named them Si-te-Cah, or “tule-eaters,” for two reaons: the fibrous water plants that the giants used to craft rafts for escape, and the fact that often these warriors stole Paiute women who were gathering the rushes on the northwestern shore of Humboldt lake.
The Si-te-Cah, or Sai-i, used their rafts to navigate across the dwindling Lake Lahontan after many years of conflict. The Si-te-Cah often age the Paiute captured in battle, and, in retribution and for their own safety, the Paiute finally launched a campaign to rid themselves of this threat.
The giants took shelter in a rock cavern, or overhanging shelf, and when they refused to capitulate, the Paiute tribal chiefs had their warriors fill the entrance with brush and set it on fire. Those who escaped were slain, and the rest were presumed to have perished.
Later, during an earthquake, the shelf collapsed, leaving just enough space for bats to come and go at will. All else was covered and sheltered for years to come.
The Excavation of Lovelock Cave and a Shocking Discovery
Thousands of years later, miners discovered bat guano, which becomes saltpeter, the valuable chief ingredient for gunpowder. In 1911, a company was created to mine the guano. Guano was mined for about 13 years before archaeologists were finally notified about strange skeletal remains and a multitude of fossils and artifacts that were found within in this cave.
By then, many artifacts had been accidentally destroyed. However what Loud and Harrington, the archaeologists, recovered was staggering.
They found and cataloged over 10, 000 artifacts and the mummified remains of two red-haired giants – one, a female, was 6.5 feet tall, the other, a male, was over 8 feet tall. Many of these artifacts were sent to the Nevada Historical Society in Reno, but some also reached the hands of private collectors.
To this day, at the small Humboldt Natural History Museum in Winnemucca, Nevada you can still find a few artifacts and the skull and jawbone of what appears to be true giants.
Si-te-Cah: Fact or Fiction? The Debate Continues
This wasn’t the final chapter in the story of Nevada’s red-haired giants. As reported in the Nevada Review-Miner newspaper, on June 19, 1931, two very large skeletons were found in the Humboldt dry lake bed, near Lovelock. One skeleton was said to be 8.5 feet tall and was described as being wrapped in gum-covered fabric, not unlike Egyptian mummies. The other skeleton was reportedly 10 feet tall.
So, if these giants existed, what happened to the remains other than the skulls and jawbones and a few scattered artifacts? Is everything else in private collections, or have the remains been spirited away or lost in time? Is there a cover-up as some sources would suggest, or were these ancient aliens, as other sources would have us believe?
L.L. Loud seemed to believe in their existence and in the validity of the claim. When he entered, he did, indeed find carbonized grass and tule as told in the legends, signifying the possibility of the set fires of ancient legend.
He concurred that much of the hair found on the mummies was, indeed red, but in other excavations in the Pueblo region of Peru, he had determined this may have been caused by age or chemical action. He did find the distinct odor of burnt bodies in the cave, even with the huge deposits of bat guano, which caused Ishi, a Yahi Indian, reluctance to enter a storeroom of the museum where the specimen were stored.
Did he disprove the existence of these giants? No. Did he cast doubt upon their existence? Not really. Did he actually find remains that may prove that at least part of the ancient legends, as told to him by Sarah Winnemucca and other Piautes, may be true? Yes, he did. Did he recover and transcribe an exact list of all he found in the cave during their excavations? Most assuredly – just see the source below for a complete list.
So whether it’s legend, fact or fiction, artifacts and remains still exist to entice our interest and provide more questions than answers as to the existence of this tribe of red-haired giants.