In the preamble to his presentation of his evidence for giants, Taylor provides an "update" on the ongoing activities of the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum. Those activities apparently included a trip to investigate Lovelock Cave (Nevada) firsthand (beginning around 7:00 in the video). Lovelock Cave is one of those sites that holds pull for just about every element of the "fringe:" giantologists, alien enthusiasts, Bigfoot believers, etc. I've written a little about the human remains from the Lovelock Cave area before (here and here).
Taylor's brief discussion of Lovelock irked me for two reasons. First, he uncritically repeats the mistaken notion that there are Paiute legends of "red-headed giants" inhabiting the cave. Second, he describes activities during his "investigation" that probably violate laws protecting archaeological sites on federal land.
Sarah Winnemucca's "Red-Headed Giants"
Talking about his visit with some Native Americans to discuss the cave, Taylor says the following:
"This gal here is a descendant of Chief Winnemucca, and Sarah Winnemucca was her great great aunt, I guess. This is Sarah Winnemucca, who wrote a lot about the red-headed giants -- wrote the whole story."
No, she didn't: the often-repeated claim that Sarah Winnemucca wrote about cannibalistic, red-haired giants is false.
The source of the "red-headed giant" claim is the 1883 book by Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins titled Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims. The people paraphrasing this book should take the time to actually read it: nowhere does Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins discuss "red-headed giants." The part relevant to Lovelock is the last paragraph of Chapter IV. I'll reproduce that whole paragraph for our convenience:
"Among the traditions of our people is one of a small tribe of barbarians who used to live along the Humboldt River. It was many hundred years ago. They used to waylay my people and kill and eat them. They would dig large holes in our trails at night, and if any of our people travelled at night, which they did, for they were afraid of these barbarous people, they would oftentimes fall into these holes. That tribe would even eat their own dead – yes, they would even come and dig up our dead after they were buried, and would carry them off and eat them. Now and then they would come and make war on my people. They would fight, and as fast as they killed one another on either side, the women would carry off those who were killed. My people say they were very brave. When they were fighting they would jump up in the air after the arrows that went over their heads, and shoot the same arrows back again. My people took some of them into their families, but they could not make them like themselves. So at last they made war on them. This war lasted a long time. Their number was about twenty-six hundred (2600). The war lasted some three years. My people killed them in great numbers, and what few were left went into the thick bush. My people set the bush on fire. This was right above Humboldt Lake. Then they went to work and made tuly or bulrush boats, and went into Humboldt Lake. They could not live there very long without fire. They were nearly starving. My people were watching them all round the lake, and would kill them as fast as they would come on land. At last one night they all landed on the east side of the lake, and went into a cave near the mountains. It was a most horrible place, for my people watched at the mouth of the cave, and would kill them as they came out to get water. My people would ask them if they would be like us, and not eat people like coyotes or beasts. They talked the same language, but they would not give up. At last my people were tired, and they went to work and gathered wood, and began to fill up the mouth of the cave. Then the poor fools began to pull the wood inside till the cave was full. At last my people set it on fire; at the same time they cried out to them, "Will you give up and be like men, and not eat people like beasts? Say quick – we will put out the fire." No answer came from them. My people said they thought the cave must be very deep or far into the mountain. They had never seen the cave nor known it was there until then. They called out to them as loud as they could, "Will you give up? Say so, or you will all die." But no answer came. Then they all left the place. In ten days some went back to see if the fire had gone out. They went back to my third or fifth great-grandfather and told him they must all be dead, there was such a horrible smell. This tribe was called people-eaters, and after my people had killed them all, the people round us called us Say-do-carah. It means conqueror; it also means "enemy." I do not know how we came by the name of Piutes. It is not an Indian word. I think it is misinterpreted. Sometimes we are called Pine-nut eaters, for we are the only tribe that lives in the country where Pine-nuts grow. 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 this reddish hair. I am going to wear it some time when I lecture. It is called the mourning dress, and no one has such a dress but my family."
Red hair? Yes.
In fact, the word "giant" is only used once in the entire document, when the author tells us that tales about giants are "make-believe stories:"
The Defacement of Lovelock Cave
Joe Taylor apparently took it upon himself to deface the site during his visit.
Here's what Taylor says:
"Inside the cave -- this is inside the walls of the cave -- and the whole ceiling has been blackened. I took a little scraping of that stuff to have it analyzed. We also . . . it looked like there's a big hand print on the wall. They were thinking it was an impression, and I said well I think it's just a . . . it's like someone put their hand in paint and smacked the wall. The hand print was a whole 12-14 inches long, you know, five fingers. So I molded that thing, on the wall, which is dang near impossible to do. And about twenty of these BLM guys started coming up and we go "we're cooked." So they came in, looked around, and we just chatted with them a while and they went in the cave and came back out and "how do you do" and went on."
Section 7.4 "(a) . . . no person may excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface, or attempt to excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise alter or deface any archaeological resource located on public lands or Indian lands unless such activity is pursuant to a permit issued under Sec. 7.8 or exempted by Sec. 7.5(b) of this part."
Section 7.5 "(a) Any person proposing to excavate and/or remove archaeological resources from public lands or Indian lands, and to carry out activities associated with such excavation and/or removal, shall apply to the Federal land manager for a permit for the proposed work, and shall not begin the proposed work until a permit has been issued."
I'm not a lawyer, but I think what Taylor claims he did probably violates 43CFR7. Taylor's comment about his worries when officials from the Bureau of Land Management approached suggests that he knew, or was at least concerned, that what he was doing was illegal. Both of Taylor's activities (the scraping and the molding) permanently altered the cave, which is an important and well-known archaeological site (if you want to learn more about the actual archaeology of the site, the Wikipedia entry is a good place to start). And for what purpose? To chase imaginary giants he supposes were discussed in a book that he apparently has not even bothered to read closely.
What a dumb thing to do.
Here is a webpage by someone named Ron Morehead who was apparently on this trip with Taylor. He wonders what happened to the "giant hand print" after they attempted to make a mold of it -- apparently it's no longer visible.
Imagine if every person with some kind of unsupported theory about the past took it upon himself to scrape archaeologicaldeposits from ceilings to satisfy their own unfocused curiosity, or to throw chemicals on rock art (apparently just to show it was only rock art and not an impression?). What if every bozo with a ridiculous idea about the "Mound Builders" grabbed a shovel and went out to investigate on his own?
Archaeological resources are irreplaceable. Do you think Joe Taylor's vigilante "investigation" of Lovelock Cave helps us learn more about it? There's obviously a cost to the permanent alteration that happens when people move things, or scrape the ceiling, or put chemicals on the wall, but what's the benefit? Archaeological sites like Lovelock Cave belong to everyone -- they are a public resource. Your privilege to "investigate" imaginary giants ends when you start having a real physical impact on things that don't belong to you.
This kind of crap isn't harmless.