Saturday, August 7, 2021

Si-Te-Cah: a tribe of red-haired giant cannibals?

According to Paiute people's oral history, the Si-Te-Cah, Saiduka or Sai'i are a legendary tribe whose mummified remains were allegedly discovered under four feet of guano by guano miners in what is now known as Lovelock Cave near Lovelock, Nevada. The miners destroyed many of the artifacts, but archaeologists were still able to retrieve 10,000 Paiute artifacts from the cave. Items included tule duck decoys, sandals, and baskets, several dating back over 2000 years.

One of the duck decoys found in Lovelock Cave.


 "Si-Te-Cah" literally means "tule-eaters" in the language of the Paiute people. Tule is a fibrous water plant. In order to escape harassment from the Paiutes, the Si-Te-Cahs were said to have lived on rafts made of tule on the lake.

Entrance to Lovelock Cave

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins (1844 - 1891), daughter of Paiute Chief Winnemucca, wrote about what she described as "a small tribe of barbarians" who ate her people in her book Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims. She wrote: "My people say that the tribe we exterminated had reddish hair. I have some of their hair, which has been handed down from father to son. I have a dress which has been in our family a great many years, trimmed with the reddish hair. I am going to wear it some time when I lecture. It is called a mourning dress, and no one has such a dress but my family." Hopkins does not mention giants.

Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins

A written report by James H. Hart, the first of two miners to excavate the cave in the fall of 1911, recalls that in the north-central part of the cave, about four feet deep, "was a striking looking body of a man 'six feet six inches tall.' His body was mummified and his hair distinctly red." Unfortunately, in the first year of mining, some of the human remains and artifacts were lost and destroyed. "The best specimen of the adult mummies was boiled and destroyed by a local fraternal lodge, which wanted the skeleton for initiation purposes." Also, several of the fiber sandals found in the cave were remarkably large, and one reported at over 15 inches (38 cm) in length was said to be on display at the Nevada Historical Society's museum in Reno in 1952.

According to scholars, the 'giant' interpretation of the skeletons from Lovelock Cave and other dry caves in Nevada was started by entrepreneurs setting up tourist displays and that the skeletons themselves were of normal size. As for red hair, they say hair pigment is not stable after death and various factors such as temperature, soil, etc. can turn ancient very dark hair rusty red or orange. However, other scholars say that, unless hair is exposed to light, it's unlikely that any change in colour would take place. Also, the myth of Si-Te-Cah being red-haired existed before Lovelock Cave was discovered, so... what did it stem from?

Moreover, in South America (where natives are black-haired like natives of North America) ancient statuettes have been found, depicting people with red or blond hair. This could mean that in the past light hair was more common than today among American natives.

Moche culture statuette. Please note Amerindians don't have facial hair.

Vichama statuettes, dating to 1800 BC.


No comments:

Post a Comment