The legend of Si-Te-Cah: “Red-haired” giants in Lovelock, Nevada

These “giants” have been described as vicious, unfriendly, and cannibalistic. Despite their modest numbers, the Si-Te-Cah constituted a grave threat to the Paiutes, who were just beginning to establish themselves in the area.
Lovelock giant

The Paiutes, a Native-American tribe that inhabits sections of Nevada, have a narrative concerning their ancestors and race of red-haired, white giants that they told to early white settlers of the area. These colossal creatures are described as “Si-Te-Cah.” Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, the daughter of a Paiute Indian chief, documented the story in her book “Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims,” which was published in 1882.

Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute Writer and Lecturer, alongside her father and Chief Poito Winnemucca of the Paiute Natives in Nevada
Sarah Winnemucca, Paiute Writer and Lecturer, alongside her father and Chief Poito Winnemucca of the Paiute Natives in Nevada. Circa 1882. © Image Credit: Public Domain

These “giants” have been described as vicious, unfriendly, and cannibalistic. Despite their modest numbers, the Si-Te-Cah constituted a grave threat to the Paiutes, who were just beginning to establish themselves in the area.

Legend has it that a great battle took place, the Paiute cornered and forced the giants down into a tunnel system, heaped foliage over the entrance and set it on fire with blazing arrows, which resulted in their extinction in the site that is now known as Lovelock Cave.

Entrance to Lovelock Cave, Nevada
Entrance to Lovelock Cave, Nevada © Ken Lund | licensed under (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The account has been disregarded by modern historians and anthropologists as fiction and allegorical myth, but some have argued that archaeological evidence suggests otherwise.

Archaeologists discovered thousands of items inside this cave during the early twentieth century, prompting a lengthy excavation and speculation that the Paiute legend was true.

Lovelock Cave in Nevada first drew archaeologists’ attention in 1924, thirteen years after miners began harvesting the bat guano that had grown up on its floor. Dried bat guano is a traditionally natural fertilizer for use in organic gardening.

Guano is the accumulated excrement of seabirds and bats. As a manure, guano is a highly effective fertilizer due to its exceptionally high content of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium ― key nutrients essential for plant growth. Guano was also, to a lesser extent, sought for the production of gunpowder and other explosive materials.
Guano is the accumulated excrement of seabirds and bats. As a manure, guano is a highly effective fertilizer due to its exceptionally high content of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium ― key nutrients essential for plant growth. Guano was also, to a lesser extent, sought for the production of gunpowder and other explosive materials. © Image Credit: Bidouze Stephane | Licensed from DreamsTime.com (Editorial/Commercial Stock Photo, ID:44893755)

The miners continued to dig until sifting out the ancient relics inside, beneath the top layer of bat guano, became too much hassle. As soon as they learned about their discoveries, they informed the University of California, and excavations began.

duck decoys, red hired giant
Native-made duck decoys. © Image Credits: The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Approximately 10,000 archaeological specimens were uncovered including tools, bones, baskets, and weapons. According to the report, 60 average-height mummies were unearthed. Duck decoys ― among the oldest known in the world with feathers still attached ― and a sandal over 15 inches long were excavated. A donut-shaped stone with 365 notches carved along the outside and 52 corresponding notches inside was found, which some scientists believe is a calendar.

Interestingly, radiocarbon dating done on follow-up visits found vegetable material dating back to 2030 BC, a human femur dating to 1450 BC, human muscle tissue dating 1420 BC, and basketry dating back to 1218 BC. Archaeologists concluded from this that the human occupation of the Lovelock cave, by this culture, started in 1500 BC. Today’s anthropologists call the people who lived in the area the Lovelock Culture with the Period lasting some 3,000 years. Many archaeologists believe that the Lovelock Culture was replaced by Northern Paiutes.

There is a long debate as to the veracity of the claims made regarding the Lovelock Giants. During the initial excavations, there were reports of mummified remains being found of two red-haired giants—one was a female 6.5-feet tall, the other was male, over 8-feet tall.

Lovelock skull
Here you can see the extreme difference in size. The teeth are all in place and it is evident that the cheek bones and eye sockets are giant sized. Rules of one point perspective would rule out that two objects so close would be such difference in size as the shadow falls on the back of the skull and both exist on the same plane. © These photo was taken by Don Monroe over forty years ago.

Today, most of the non-human artifacts unearthed from the Lovelock cave can be found in local museums or at the University of California at Berkeley museum, but those mysterious bones and mummies are not so easy to come by. Some believe, the artifacts, themselves, prove that an advanced culture did indeed predate the Paiute Indians, but whether the legend of red-haired giants of Lovelock is historically accurate remains unknown to this day.

Skeptics claim that chemical staining by earth after burial was a likely reason why mummified remains have red hair instead of black, like most Indians in the area. In addition, a study done at the University of Nevada indicates the “giants” were about six feet tall, and not up to 8 feet tall as had been claimed.

Lovelock giant
This is a comparison of the jaw of Homo Sapiens, or modern man, and the large jaw of a Lovelock giant.

You’ll get the run-around if you want to see these mummies for yourself. One museum will inform you that the other possesses it, and vice versa, and so forth. The original miners and excavators claim that several mummies (partial and whole) were unearthed, but nowadays, all you can see for sure are one jawbone and one misshapen skull. The Humboldt County Museum in Winnemucca has one of the skulls.

We may never know whether the Lovelock Cave mummies ever existed or were purposefully concealed. Existing artifacts appear to back up the Paiute legend, and evidence of gigantism has been found and documented in various parts of the world. Except for the giant mummies themselves, the Lovelock Cave claim appears to have all of the necessary pieces.

Were they buried in a warehouse so that humanity wouldn’t notice modern history’s mistakes? Or were they a fictitious amalgamation of an ancient mythology and a few enigmatic bones without any historical background?

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  1. I have often wondered if the pueblo people and other people in the world did live with these “giants” and build in caves and cliff sides that couldn’t accommodate their size. Just a thought.

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