Red-haired Giant Cannibals at Lovelock Cave? Really?

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By Brendan Riley

Colorful tales of the American West don’t fade away easily, even when they seem to have been discounted. Take, for example, the story of legendary red-haired cannibal giants whose alleged existence in the Lovelock area centuries ago has been debated for more than 100 years.

lovelock_cave463x275Scientists have said there’s no proof the “giants,” first described in old Indian tales, were cannibals. Chemical staining by earth after burial was advanced as a likely reason why mummified remains have red hair instead of black like most Indians in the area.

A University of Nevada study in the mid-1970s indicated the “giants” were about six feet tall, and not up to 10 feet tall as had been claimed. What was left after that was evidence of a tribe separate from principal tribes whose Paiute descendants live here — perhaps a wandering, more aggressive but outnumbered band finally hunted down and killed or chased off.

Anthropologists say the story, while somewhat tamer, is still fascinating. But they concede the old myth has more appeal and, no matter what they say, will probably persist.

The mid-1970s study was conducted after a bundle of bones, marked “giant bones,” were found in a long-overlooked cabinet at the Nevada Historical Society building in Reno.

The late Sheilagh Brooks, who chaired the anthropology department at UN-Las Vegas, analyzed the bones which apparently came from the Lovelock Cave, a treasure trove for scientists trying to reconstruct Nevada’s early history.

Dr. Brooks said her investigation showed that some of the bones were from cows, not giants. The human bones appeared to be remains of Indians “maybe six feet tall — big, but not that big,” she said.

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, ca 1885
Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, ca 1885

The myth was written down in 1883 by Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, daughter of a Paiute Indian chief. She told of a strange, red-haired tribe of cannibals her ancestors drove into a cave and suffocated by lighting a fire at its entrance.

She said the “people eaters” were so fierce they would leap into the air, snatch arrows whizzing over their heads, and shoot them back at their enemies. The Paiutes named the giants Si-Te-Cah, which translates to tule-eaters. The giants wove tules, a fibrous water plant, into rafts to navigate across what remained of Lake Lahontan, so the story goes.

The Paiutes, a Native-American tribe indigenous to parts of Nevada, Utah and Arizona, described the Si-Te-Cah as a vicious, unapproachable people that killed and ate their captives, and told early settlers that after years of warfare all the tribes in the area joined together to rid themselves of the giants.

The fleeing giants took refuge in Lovelock Cave and refused to leave despite demands that they come out and fight. So their pursuers filled the entrance to the cave with brush that was set on fire in a bid to force the giants to come out. The few that did emerge were promptly killed. The giants that remained inside the cavern were asphyxiated.

John T. Reid, a Lovelock mining engineer, said Indians took him to the cave in 1886 and told him the tale of the red-haired cannibal giants. But when he entered the cave he found nothing but tons of bat guano.

Entrance to Lovelock Cave, Pershing County Nevada
At the entrance to Lovelock Cave, Pershing County

Reid was unsuccessful in getting an archaeological dig started immediately. But miners, realizing the value of guano as fertilizer, started hauling it out in 1911. They promptly turned up bones, baskets, weapons, tools, duck decoys, various other artifacts and what they described as a 6-foot-6 mummy. James H. Hart, one of the miners, wrote that the mummy, found in the north-central part of the cave about four feet down, had hair that was “distinctly red.”

The discovery spurred an archaeological dig in 1912, followed by a second dig in 1924. Thousands of artifacts and about 60 average-height mummies were recovered. Not all the mummies were preserved. One of the best specimens reportedly was boiled and destroyed by a local fraternal lodge that wanted a skeleton for initiation purposes. More studies followed, including radio-carbon dating that showed the cave was occupied from about 2,000 BC to about 900 AD.

The view of Humboldt Lake from Lovelock Cave
The view of Humboldt Lake from Lovelock Cave

Adrienne Mayor wrote about the Si-Te-Cah in her book, “Legends of the First Americans.” She suggested that the ‘giant’ interpretation of the skeletons from Lovelock Cave and other caves in Nevada was started by entrepreneurs setting up tourist displays. She also noted that hair pigment is not stable after death and that various factors such as temperature and soil conditions can turn very dark hair rusty red or orange.

All that may be so. But try convincing readers who love a good tall tale.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. But why are we trying to write off the red hair to postmortem soil conditions when the Paiute themselves describe their adversary as red-haired in life?

    • Because it doesn’t fit in with their version of History.There are too many tales of red haired giants all around the world not to have some truth to it.

    • Sorry to tell you this little Eurocentrist honey, but it isn’t even about soil conditions, pigment in hair decays over time and very ancient hairs appear reddish as a result. Go research some basic archaeology before trying to convince yourself that red haired people lived all over the world, just because you don’t understand archaeology.

      As far as the claim that native Americans themselves said there were red headed giants, there is no actual proof to this claim. Do you know what a myth is? Early Europeans in the area were known to have tourist displays and to create a lot of these myths. It’s very likely that native Americans themselves never even claimed there were giants with red hair, but the Europeans who created these scam tourist displays made that up to make it sound more interesting to people. This is how myths starts, sorry. Someone says someone else said something etc.

      You are probably one of these idiots that tells himself that the ancient Jomon of Japan were Europeans also, people like you just “WANT TO BELIEVE” so hard, you act as insane as those Afrocentrist idiots, who also deny science and take part in conspiracy theories and claim that the ancient native Americans and Japanese etc were secretly black people and that the governments are covering it up…………sigh.

      • So apparently, people who witnessed these things or had the stories passed down were just too stupid to realize they were talking about? And you believe your some kind of genius I suppose? There are too man of these types of giant beings that have been witnessed throughout history to be dismissed just because it doesn’t fit your world view. I can tell you don’t actually read the accounts that have been written down. As far as red hair is concerned, the desert dirt, as seen in the mummies in South America, could not do that to hair, that is, cause a red head most people are familiar with even today that cannot be mistaken for “appearing reddish”. There are also the European desert mummies found in Mongolia where archeologists actually have stated they were redheads. Red hair peoples have existed in the past as your post seems to imply its impossible to deduce that all buried bodies have hair turning red, like a real redhead, over time. Baloney.

  2. although i dont want to agree you have a point, but the could have used EDNA to investigate the aera. Think for a sec… canibalistic red haired giant pypeadal animals surviving in who knows how many caves, how many are left in them one word, Gigantopythycs.

  3. I am no scientist but I have artifacts that clearly show they were cannibals if infact they are completely human themselves. They also traveled by sea I have proof of that as well. Also they were very large. To compare I’m 6 ft tall and one’s head is bigger than my torso. I see were people ask all the questions I consider common knowledge because I picked up a lot of rocks and was able to find a cave and figure out who and why. I don’t know who to tell or show my findings but if you know please do tell.

  4. Our government hides all evidence of giant humans rooming the American continent, I was told those remains were on display at one time at the winnemucca museum. The smallest was 6 1/2 feet. But our government
    would never lie or hide anything from the people would they. Even president Lincoln talked about the giants in this country

  5. Right, the government hides evidence… or the evil Smithsonian does… Zzzz. Of course they do. Why? Because they’d have to re-write history? I think you’ll find history is re-written fairly regularly anyway. Because it would disprove evolution? Um, how? Ridiculous reasoning to back up ridiculous theories. But hey, why believe science when you can believe crack-pot, made up conspiracy nonsense. There were no giants.

    • Because all species of animals started big, then became small. Humans supposedly started small and became big. It would shatter Darwin’s theory we came from chimpanzees if we have ancestors that were huge.

  6. wow,some people are real good at insults,they probably never do real research or read .they just blindly trust everything the news and the indoctrination of the school system says.if you want to find real lies,look no further than the school system.FYI the bible talks about Giants !

  7. I watched a documentary where they compared a giant skull next to a “regular” skull and let me tell you, they are significantly bigger. Myths are not myths- they are history. Why do you think That myths from ancient civilizations share so many commonalities- a giant flood, numerous ancient civilizations have a “divine nine” a group of nine gods: the Chinese, Greek mythology has 9 muses, the romans, Egyptians, Celtics, Buddhism, stories of giants…. the government has lied to us about a lot of things- why I do not know.

  8. Nobody Nobi- Smart people, especially red-haired giants like myself, know that the existence of a potential science-based answer doesn’t preclude others from the same. Said in simpler terms for you, there are multiple ways to skin a cat.

  9. Surely, some will never believe the truth of this race of giants. If the mind is already closed, nothing has to change. But facts are facts!
    The oldest petroglyphs ever found in North America, over 10,000 years old, were made by those true indigenous indians. They were invaded by the Piautes from the north. As there were many bones found, they were recorded and witnessed to finding them 8.5 feet and taller. Actual evidence points to them living as ancient fisherman, with vegetation consumed grown in the alkaline soil, made the hair covering them red. They lived on the water to avoid the invading indians, as they attempted to co-exsist.
    But eventually, some were cornered and almost made extinct by that fire. The fact that drives this is the ritualistic burial, after the fire, that tells us that not all of them were killed. None the less, the attempt to wipe them from existence forced the survivors to flee the area, for their very lives. Keep your eyes open, and your mind sharp. They have been running for their lives before the white man ever stepped on the continent. Vegetarians, that leave no trail, and lives in fear of being discovered, covered with hair, tho no longer red. Who is this creature? I know, do you? Thanks for reading. I DONT WANT YOU TO JUST BELIEVE IT, LOOK IT UP! RESEARCH IT FOR YOURSELF!
    THEN YOU WILLBELIEVE IN THE TRUTH!

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