The story of ‘Zana’, wild woman, has been solved through DNA analysis (UPDATE)

nature of the beast_sykesThere is a flurry of interest suddenly in the Zana story as The Daily Mail has printed a new piece hinting that Sykes new book will claim that Zana, the mysterious wild woman captured in Russia in the late 1800s, was perhaps a yeti. The piece is horribly written and looks like a teaser:

Professor Bryan Sykes of the University of Oxford claims a towering woman named Zana who lived in 19th Century Russia – and appeared to be ‘half human, half ape’ – could have been the fabled yeti.

I don’t think it actually DOES say that and I would be very surprised if it did since she was most certainly human. The rest of the article tells the story of Zana again (same as in 2013) so this simply looks like a way to keep a buzz about Sykes new book.

There looks to be nothing new here but media hype.

Originally published 1-Nov 2013

Here is the news of what Dr. Bryan Sykes found after studying DNA samples of supposed Bigfoot-like creatures in Russia.

Was Russian ‘Bigfoot’ actually an African slave?.

Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, has carried out DNA tests on saliva samples taken from descendants of Zana – a so-called ‘wild woman’ captured in the late 19th century in southern Russia, who local people believe was an ‘Almasty’.

Professor Sykes’ research (part of a worldwide analysis of alleged Bigfoot samples), has yielded a remarkable result: that Zana’s ancestry was 100% Sub-Saharan African and that she was most probably a slave brought to the region by the ruling Ottomans.

To answer the riddle and establish what species she belonged to, Professor Sykes has tested samples from six of Zana’s living descendants. He has also recovered DNA from a tooth taken from the skull of one of her sons, Khwit. Such work is highly specialized and Sykes was the first geneticist ever to extract DNA from ancient bone.

But the big surprise in Sykes’ results was that Zana’s DNA is not Caucasian at all, but African. Khwit’s tooth sample confirms her maternal African ancestry and the saliva tests on the six living descendants show that they all contain African DNA in the right proportions for Zana to have been genetically 100% sub-Saharan African.

The tale of Zana and her son, Khwit, have been staples in the mystery hominid stories of Russia where their version of “Bigfoot” is called the Almas or Almasty. It was suspected that Zana was not human but possibly a relict hominid, such as a Neanderthal. Previous study of Khwit DNA showed that he was all human. This more specific test was able to show that Zana was not of local origin but she wzanaas human. Her exoticness is likely what prompted the stories that morphed into her being non-human.

Now, many will argue that this does not preclude the existence of relict hominoids (hominids) that could be the Almasty. True, it does not. They also argued that Sykes finding of bear DNA did not preclude the existence of the Yeti in the Himalayas or that the unmysterious results of DNA samples from North America does not mean there is no Sasquatch/Bigfoot. But cryptozoologists were excited that this would finally be the study that gave them proof. Sykes’ response is that is gives them ANSWERS. When you take all the scientific data all together, it DOES NOT point to unknown primates still living in remote areas of the world. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? No. And, it’s looking less and less probable every day.

Read the sad story of Zana (some of which is true, some fiction) here.

Tip: Matthew Robinson

Zana's son Khwit

Zana’s son Khwit


  57 comments for “The story of ‘Zana’, wild woman, has been solved through DNA analysis (UPDATE)

  1. Bob
    November 1, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    I was pulling for angel DNA.

  2. November 1, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    This is, in my opinion, so much worse than I’d expected. I was (foolishly?) thinking there was probably some birth defect at play and that the stories of Zana were that of a maltreated person who was misunderstood. Instead I find that it is the story of a foreigner probably held in captivity and treated as something other than human – and then that shameful story being morphed over time into a false tale of a wild woman with animal qualities. I’m delighted to find some definitive information about the case through Dr. Sykes reseearch – but somebody’s going to be able to get a dissertation out of the history of this case. This is way bigger, in my opinion, than the unusual bear DNA.

  3. November 1, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Perhaps the most interesting lesson to learn from this is that the definitions of races and the labels used to describe them were not nearly as universal before mass media. I’d bet that the descriptions of her being covered in hair were a garbled attempt to describe her skin color. Something like, “she was the color of bear fur,” and that became “she had fur.” (Of course, the fact that her given name meant “black” might have been a little bit of a clue to who she really was.)

    I was a little surprised that Sykes suggests that maybe Zana was evidence of another migration out of Africa. When would that be, exactly? In historic times? Before historic times? I’m not quite sure if I see a window for a migration of sub-Saharan Africans out of Africa where it’s early enough for their passage and settlement to be ignored by history, yet so late that they had absolutely no genetic contact with anyone on Europe and Asia in the intervening time, allowing Zana to have a genetic profile that would be 100% sub-Saharan African DNA. I think it’s a lot more likely she was the child of escaped slaves, maybe even a feral child. That being said, someone should check the early travelogues about Siberia and see if they can find anything interesting.

  4. spookyparadigm
    November 1, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    So, in other words.

    1.) All the samples of Bigfoot and Yeti DNA turned out to be bear and other animals

    2.) The Zana case touted by generations of cryptozoologists as one of their best, is instead a horrible case of racism, abuse, and rape, the reframing of victims as beasts.

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is the moment when Bigfoot leaves pseudoscience, and becomes mysticism. This is the Mogul balloon (first discovered by ufologists, no less), the MJ12 documents. This is the Surgeon’s photo and Operation DeepScan. This is the Cottingsley Fairies.

    People will still honestly report what they think was Bigfoot. There will still be Bigfooters that try to work in a cargo cult science frame. But this is where, IM not humble O, the split happens, and we see the previous generation quietly give way to a mostly mystical form of folklore and practice.

    And that’s probably for the best.

  5. November 2, 2013 at 12:17 AM

    This is part of the original report that was left out of the Doubtful News article:
    “And Sykes has raised the bold theoretical possibility that Zana could be a remnant of an earlier human migration out of Africa, perhaps tens of thousands, of years ago. If correct, Zana could be evidence of a hitherto unknown human ‘tribe’, dating from a distant time when the human species was still evolving and whose ancestors were forced into remote regions, like the Caucasus mountains, by later waves of modern humans coming out of Africa.”

  6. spookyparadigm
    November 3, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    I think this is the new site, so I’ll just reiterate that in the press release, while Sykes suggests that as an intriguing idea, the more recent forced transport of Zana to Central Asia is described as most likely.

    Sad to see this scrap of interesting if true, but probably not true, speculation will keep this sordid story afloat.

  7. spookyparadigm
    November 3, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    BTW, this isn’t just Anthropic placing Bigfoot in the Gaps here, this is quickly becoming the party line on the usual suspects blogs.

    Now, of course, this won’t stop them from also talking about an 8-ft tall hairy ape-man in the Himalayas and North America, despite Sykes discarding all of that with the DNA research. But that’s how cherry-picking pseudoscience works.

  8. idoubtit
    November 3, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    I noticed BS BE blog has a “poll” about what you think Zana is. As if science is decided by vote. Morons. One dissenting non-expert does not get to overturn a consensus but the story is better than the truth over them parts.

  9. spookyparadigm
    November 3, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    See also cryptomundo

  10. Scotty
    November 4, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    Wonderful programme by Sykes and Evans and in fact I enjoyed the whole series. I had no hopes before the programme was aired that it wuld be rational and skeptical, but it was. The story of Zana got sadder and sadder, and as someone said there is a lot more to it that will maybe one day come out.

    BTW – great site!!!

  11. Joerg Hensiek
    November 4, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    I watched the whole episode. EVERYBODY who watched it and who has just a little bit knowledge about human evolution realized that Sykes supposed an ARCHAIC Homo sapiens and not a modern Homo sapiens sapiens at the end of the show, after he had examined all the evidence (DNA and skull morphology). The slave theory was just Syke`s first reaction after 15 minutes or so of the show. Anyway, I doubt that the descendants of 16th century slaves could and would have suvived in the higher Caucasus for centuries without any kind of civilization. They would have died or would have migrated to more hospitable regions – or would have been killed or captured by slave hunters. Just a thought from someone who has been to the Caucasus several times and did a PhD on Georgian history (and therefore knows a litle bit on the Ottoman slave trade in the region). Ah, and please excuse my bad English.

  12. Joerg Hensiek
    November 4, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    And another thought from someone who knows Georgia and its history very well: tales of hairy and giant PEOPLE (not King Kongs, dear skeptics) in the forests and mountains can be traced back to the roots of Georgian history (or rather folk literature). This makes the Ottoman slave theory even less likely. There were, as it seems, Africans in the region, but certainly already since prehistoric times. In the words of Sykes: a yet “unknown tribe”.

  13. spookyparadigm
    November 4, 2013 at 11:38 PM

    1. “Anyway, I doubt that the descendants of 16th century slaves could and would have suvived in the higher Caucasus for centuries without any kind of civilization. They would have died or would have migrated to more hospitable regions – or would have been killed or captured by slave hunters”

    Well, yes. That’s the whole point. Zana was a captive. There is no reason to believe Zana is representative of some lost “tribe” of 16th century slaves. As noted, there were slaves in the region two decades earlier.

    2. Sykes is a geneticist. Is he trained to look at skeletal morphology of ancestral humans? Even then, there are decades of researchers claiming this and that feature looks “primitive” in modern populations, ideas that have usually then fallen apart under genetic analysis.

    3. If Sykes is serious about the “unknown archaic population” idea, then that is (relatively) easily solved. He’s got DNA. He should be able to do mtDNA which will determine whether Zana left Africa a few generations ago, or 400,000 BP.

  14. idoubtit
    November 4, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    Citations please.

    Obviously, this subject needs more attention. It’s tremendously interesting. I will watch the show soon. But, this does nothing for the proponents of an unknown primate. The result fits much better into evolutionary framework and what we already know.

  15. spookyparadigm
    November 4, 2013 at 11:42 PM

    What precisely would make Africans, even if we’re talking a population of archaic H. s. I presume you’re arguing since H. heidelbergensis or at least H. erectus, “hairy and giant?” If anything, hairy would go the other way, being more associated with populations living farther north in the Pleistocene, and while Masai are tall, they are lean, and plenty of other folks from the African continent are all over the map in terms of stature.

    You’ve got someone from subSaharan Africa, described as being animalistic, in an era where even learned scholars (especially learned scholars) delighted in manufacturing fantastical racist imagery of Africans as ape-like and bestial. I really suspect there isn’t much mystery here.

  16. Gary
    November 5, 2013 at 2:41 AM

    She lived until 1890 and no one ever took a photo? That seems odd.

  17. Scotty
    November 5, 2013 at 7:17 AM

    Maybe cameras were not widespread in the area – it was a pretty backwards area by the standards of the 1890s I would think. Also the people that imprisoned and raped her would have been the most likely to own a camera…..

    No mystery how she got there and no need for a ancient migration. Slaving goes on now and surely went on within the Ottoman Empire, and there would have been remnants of it in the area.

  18. Joerg Hensiek
    November 5, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    Before I start, some basic words. I am NOT here to fight an ideological battle, because although I find cryptozoological research worthwhile and extremely interesting, I have to admit that 95% of it is pure fantasy and nonsense. But I think it is worthwhile, because somebody HAS to look for the evidence science and skeptics are demanding. Certainly it also very debatable, depending on your personal perspective, if Sykes results are a „cryptozoological success“ or rather a major defeat for cryptozoology. In my opinion, the likely discovery of a new big bear species, a Pleistocene survivor, is what cryptozoology is all about: finding new species. But: no, I do not believe that there are dinosaurs in the Congo or Gigantopitheci in the forests of America or other places. However, there are still undiscovered large mammals around, as Sykes has shown, and there is some good evidence, that archaic hominins are still around in the mountains and forests of Asia (especially on Sumatra, where the scientists of the “Flora and Fauna International” organization have seen the so-called Orang Pendek during their research on tigers. I emailed three years ago with one of those scientists and she declared, that she was absolutely sure that these creatures exist, because she had seen them on three occassions.)
    That “cryptozoological belief” can turn in time into scientific mainstream knowledge was demonstrated in recent years in paleoanthropology:
    – Until a couple of years ago everybody in science did not believe that we would find another archaic human other than Neandertal in the period after 40.000 years ago. The discovery of the Denisova man has changed all this. And due to the genetic analysis of the Denisova man we also know that there was a third archaic human, still unknown, that shared Eurasia together with Neandertal man, Denisova man and Homo sapiens – after 40.000 years ago!
    – The finding of Flores man showed science that there was still a very “primitive” human around at least 18.000 years ago, perhaps even as late as 12.000 years. After initial discussion if Flores man is just a modern man suffering from diseases, the debate is now almost settled and the vast majority of anthropologists see them now either as a dwarfed erectus or even a Homo habilis (died out in Africa around 2.8 million years ago). Just 12-18.000 years ago!
    Now to your points:
    – Zana was hairy: anecdotes are just very weak scientific evidence, I have to admit. But apart from the skull and the DNA that is all what we have. And all people interviewed on Zana described her as extremely hairy and a “fur” covered all of her body apart from the face. Does this sound African? Now, we will never know, because until now it is just impossible to conclude from fossil bones to the hairiness of the skin. Was African erectus/heidelbergensis covered in a fur, or not, just because modern African populations are not? We do not know and we will probably never know in the foreseeable future.
    – Giant people: This is rather a question of perspective. Even today the inhabitants of Abchasia are not very tall, I would say the general man there is about 1,68-70 metres, the women of course even smaller. Therefore relative small people could consider people – you mentioned the Massaii – with a general height of almost 1,90 meters as real giants.
    – Robust morphology: ALL Homo erectus bones I know show that these homini were very massively build in comparison to modern populations. But one has not to go so deep into time. Even here in Central Europe, late Paleolithic and Mesolitic men were much stronger build than Neolithic men just a couple of thousand years later. In other words: physiognomic characteristics changed fast – and even the anatomically modern Homo sapiens changed its look drastically between the paleolithic and modern times. To conclude from the looks of modern African population at the beginning of the 21st century to paleolithic modern Homo sapiens is therefore misleading. The same, by the way, could also apply to the hairiness of the skin.

    Last but not least: Sykes will publish a book in March/April of next year. This book he advertised as a book that “will change our understanding of human history”. Now Sykes could be a very naïve man, but I do not think so. Even someone with the reputation he has cannot allow himself to describe the known Zana results as something that could change our understanding of human history. My bet: he has already examined the DNA from the skull of Zana`son. And therefore he is confident that he can use such a description for his book. A single escaped slave (very unlikely, because Abchasia was part of Russia by then and slavery prohibited) or a colony/”tribe” of escaped slaves from the Ottoman era would certainly not be in line with such a bold announcement.
    My personal prediction (but just a feeling): Zana is the descendant of an early migration out of Africa, a “tribe” or rather lineage, that is antomically “modern”, but not a major contributor to modern mankind. There are two fossil records that would fit to such a description, both from Australia: the Kow Swamp and the Mungo man (Lake Mungo 3). I am confident that these are the same lineages and that Zana is related to those folks.

    But to end my comments: Of course I could be totally wrong. We will see after the publication of Sykes`s book. IF he REALLY calls the finding of a modern African (anytime between 15th and 19th century) in the Caucasus as something that “will change our understanding of human history”, then he lives in a parallel universe. He just will be laughed at.

  19. Joerg Hensiek
    November 5, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Do you mean citation of old Caucasian/Georgian folk literature? Beliefs in “hairy wildmen” exist throughouth the Caucasus. The wildman is called Germakoci in Lazistan, Ocokoci in Mingrelia. Those legends and myths go back to at least medieval times. See an overview on wildmen legends throughout Georgia in “Kartuli xalxuri sitqviereba”, volume II, Tiflis 1992. Therefore: the legend did not start with Zana at the end of the 19th century. By the way: the wildmen are all described in the same way: very tall or “gigantic”, covered in fur, very strong, face without hair, facial features just like “normal people”. No apeman, no Gigantopithecus, but people see them as very different from normal Caucasus people. In remote parts people are still very afraid of them even today. I have encountered some old village folks who did not dare to go into the forest above their village, because the wildmen visits those forests from time to time.

  20. Gary
    November 5, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    I agree, Scotty. The people who had her were likely to have had access to what was pretty common technology. It sounds like they were not keeping her existence a secret, nor were ashamed by her treatment.

  21. Gary
    November 5, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    If there was a group of wild hairy people, could they not have been a branch of the Äynu of western China?

  22. spookyparadigm
    November 5, 2013 at 3:16 PM

    His genetics say Zana is a modern subSaharan African woman. If we’re talking something farther from us than Neanderthals, Denisova, the un-named west-African archaic only found in descendants with no type fossil, etc., then we aren’t talking anatomically modern, are we? And for someone furry and “giant,” we’d be talking about that.

    Maybe I’m wrong. But my take is that he’s got something that seems out of place, and he’s not discounting the stories about Zana. I personally think that without real genetic evidence suggesting something separated from us by over 300,000 years or more, we should discount the stories. She was an African, and the report is coming from the time when Africans were most likely to be misrepresented as apes because of the rise of scientific racism in the wake of Darwin (who did not support such frames, but who gave the ideological cover to do so), and when people were all too happy to throw around descriptions of “primitive” to describe modern human variation.

    If Sykes presents a major mtDNA split of the sort that has been used to separate out the other archaics, so be it. But just pointing at “primitive” morphology, when one has the DNA in hand, is crap.

  23. Joerg Hensiek
    November 5, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    no, this is not what I wanted to express. I just answered some of your points. OF COURSE DNA will bring the final answer, but the morphological differences will help to give them additonal value. And of course the descriptions of “primitive features” have to be scientifically sound and not based on the ideological/racist/white superiority constructions of the 19th century. But I am sure Sykes – or any other leading scientist – will not fall into this “trap”.

  24. spookyparadigm
    November 5, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    This is a reply to Joerg:

    Well, we’ll see what Sykes says. But unless there is physical evidence of something unusual to back up the claims of hairiness and other “primitive” physical features, I don’t see any reason to put any stock in these accounts. From the press release at least, Sykes seems to be going the other way, taking the accounts and wondering how the data might account for it. If these were photographs, I might see that as reasonable investigation.

    But again, these are eyewitness accounts from the Victorian era. Without something otherwise inexplicable from the mtDNA, there is nothing that needs explaining here. I would trust Sykes’ genetic work. I would not trust anywhere near as much his placing that in a historical context in terms of either historical accounts of “primitiveness,” or in terms of the larger intellectual climate of Victorian anthropology and more general thoughts about human diversity.

    Without mtDNA to differentiate Zana, his statement is highly careless. Maybe it means he’s got mtDNA. Or maybe it means he’s being careless in a media-driven project. Neither case is impossible.

  25. spookyparadigm
    November 5, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    Gary, I don’t know how much the hairy bit to the Ainu is simply another race-based (but this time from Japanese culture) description vs. actual hairyness.

    But either way, Zana is not that now. Either she was a kidnapped woman from modern Africa. Or she was part of a relic population from before modern humans that left Africa before Neanderthals evolved (to say nothing of what H. heidelbergensis DNA looks like, which we don’t know AFAIK), AND hasn’t mated at all in that ancestry with Neanderthals, something not found in populations that left Africa in the last 100,000 years. In other words, living in a completely isolated population of humans without any significant outbreeding with either Neanderthals or Eurasians in the last 60,000 years. Until of course in the 19th century.

    Which of these seems more plausible to you? Now, if Sykes has mtDNA that shows that indeed Zana is 300,000 or more years separated from everyone in Eurasia, well, that will be amazing. But yeah, that’s what we’ll need to see.

  26. John Nowak
    November 5, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    >And another thought from someone who knows Georgia and its history very well: tales of hairy and giant PEOPLE (not King Kongs, dear skeptics) in the forests and mountains can be traced back to the roots of Georgian history (or rather folk literature). This makes the Ottoman slave theory even less likely.

    Respectfully, I don’t see how that follows.

    Folk tales of giant hairy people who live in forests would make a misidentification of an African slave more likely, not less likely.

  27. Gary
    November 5, 2013 at 7:25 PM

    I wasn’t referring to Zana at all, just the legends of hairy people that some are trying to connect her to. They don’t have to be related.

  28. spookyparadigm
    November 5, 2013 at 7:41 PM

    Ah, I see. I’d still suggest that one doesn’t need to explain such stories. This is my issue with the argument that H. floresiensis is behind stories of little people. I think it’s a cool idea, and in the case of that part of Indonesia, there may be something to it.

    But there aren’t floresiensis or something like it throughout the world, where we do find little people stories. So while it is possible that floresiensis may have something to do with the little people stories in Indonesia, it is also entirely possible that the two are completely unrelated.

  29. Gary
    November 5, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    That’s true. People will often try to connect a legend to a sighting of some sort and try to use it as evidence to validate one or the other. It may point to an area where evidence should be looked for but is poor evidence in itself. People keep thinking they see big cats in England. If they actually find one, it’ doesn’t validate every funny noise or fuzzy photo ever reported.

  30. Nar
    November 5, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    The pictures of her offspring looked quite obviously African descent to me. But there was one odd thing that Sykes said. He tells the gathered ‘experts’ she was 100% subsarahan African, with the normal 2-3% Neanderthal DNA. But this can’t be possible, as only European and asiatic peoples have the neanderthanal contribution, from after Homo sapiens moved out of Africa. I may have misunderstood his point, or it was a programming error, but basically she can’t have been both totally African and also have the Neanderthal contribution. Either she was mixed race, or there is a genuinely interesting finding in her DNA and this is why he postulated the (to my mind ridiculous) idea of an ancient hominid population in the area ( which the vet guy dismissed pretty quickly).

  31. idoubtit
    November 6, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    But this possibility is remote.

  32. idoubtit
    November 6, 2013 at 12:35 AM

    Local folklore is not reliable evidence.

  33. Joerg Hensiek
    November 6, 2013 at 6:50 AM

    You asked me for citations on Caucasian folklore, I did not say it is scientifically reliable! 😉

  34. Joerg Hensiek
    November 6, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    To Spookyparadigm:
    We just have to wait. Of course, I DO NOT rule out, that Sykes has nothing more to offer than the modern African “slav” DNA. Then he acts – for a Oxford prof – extremely misleading, if he says it “will change our understanding of human history”. By the way, his literary agent describes the forthcoming book as “what Sykes has to say will shock the world.”

    I am not a geneticist, not any kind of scientist (despite PhD), but I work in PR for some book publishers. Now, can you imagine the phone conversation between the publisher and the literary agent?
    Agent: Sykes has examined the DNA of a wild woman from the Caucasus. Some Russian scholars believed this woman was a Yeti or a Neandertal man.
    Publisher: Wow, so what did he find out? It is a Yeti???
    Agent: Well, not exactly…”
    Publisher: A Neandertal woman?
    Agent: Well, no…it is..
    Publisher: So what????
    Agent: Sensational result: She was sub-saharan!!
    Publisher: She was what???
    Agent: From Africa!!!
    Publisher: You mean like Mrs. Barnes, our office secretary?
    Agent: Well, yes….
    Publisher: Could you ask professor Sykes if he could also write a book on UFOs, the porn industry or the DNA of Lionel Messi???

    You know what I mean. Such a book would be pure suicide for any publisher. A NON EVENT. Have you noticed how many mainstream media articles were published on the Caucasus results? Even in the UK just one the last time I looked – by the TV station Channel 4 itself, the producer of the Bigfoot Files. Now you can imagine how much much media attention Sykes will get with results like that. Again: no publisher will take such a risk. And Sykes will lose lots of it credibility.
    Again, everthing can happen in this crazy world. Even a foolish publisher and a professor who misleads the public. But from all what I learned about the book trade: it would make no sense at all!

  35. John Nowak
    November 6, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Early camera film was very slow, often requiring an exposure of several seconds. It might not have been possible to take a good photo of her.

  36. John Nowak
    November 6, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    She could easily be both — a kidnapped African with various deformities. What I find striking in the “Story of Zana” linked is that Zana never learned the local language, which seems hard to believe unless she was mentally handicapped in some way.

    The insensitivity to cold mentioned reminds me of Victor of Aveyron.

  37. spookyparadigm
    November 6, 2013 at 6:55 PM

    I just listened to the relevant section of the program, and while the BBC narrator made it clear that the likely answer is, well, the likely answer, I found Sykes’ speculative statement to be irresponsible. We’ll see what he has to say about it, but it wouldn’t be the first time a trained professional went beyond what they should have when a media production was in play, and then upon more careful examination, modified their on-camera statements. See my discussion of this between the statements by archaeologist William Doleman when he was excavating in the area of the Roswell/Corona “crash” in a tv show paid for by the Sci-Fi channel, and then how he largely rejected much of what he had said during the media production, when he wrote the final report. Not because he was lying, I think he just got caught up in the excitement, and also knew what those involved wanted to hear, even if he wasn’t consciously bending the truth in that direction.

    the relevant bit

    “In the diaries as a whole, it is clear that while initially some interesting work was done, particularly the subsurface remote sensing, once the TV cameras showed up, everything turns to garbage. The television cameras dominate everything, including a huge and pointless distraction of using a helicopter that ends up having mechanical trouble (one wonders if it helped provide drama to the otherwise not very dramatic excavations).

    Even Doleman gets into it. When the cameras are there, much of his caution gets dashed when he is clearly stressed out, and starts to get excited by what turns out to be a likely ephemeral feature in alignment with the remote sensing return for “the gouge” supposedly left by the Roswell craft. BTW, I’d just like to note that the gouge has grown slightly, and in this accounting is now five hundred feet long, a bit bigger than the 390 – 480′ gouge described by Randle and Schmitt in 1991, though still in the same ballpark. The discovery of a supposed gouge in the profile and in the remote sensing is a major hook in the television show that aired in 2002, but in the book and in the included report, it becomes clear that feature was likely a side-effect of the backhoe that was brought in, or otherwise ephemeral. Likewise, Doleman gets very excited about another gouge, and the discovery of an unrelated weather balloon, all when the cameras are around. His caution returns when the cameras are gone, and he has time to think about all of this.”

  38. John Nowak
    November 6, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    I agree. There’s no point speculating about an undiscovered discrete human colony.

    I think everyone’s mouth could use a “Rewind” button.

  39. Joerg Hensiek
    November 7, 2013 at 6:44 AM

    But first we have to see, as someone here already mentioned, why Zana`s son Khvit has apparently Neandertal DNA in his mtDNA. Impossible if his mother would just be “sub-saharan”. I am sure Sykes has an simple answer to this and of course the superficial few articles on the case did not describe his research detailed and correclty enough. But anyway, as long as Sykes does not answer this explicitly the question remains: where does the Neandertal man in Khvit`s mtDNA comes from?? The news from Channel 4 made it even more mysterious: “First, they (the results) show that Zana was, in fact, NO MORE Neanderthal than many of the rest of modern humans.” Again: If she was African, she would have had NO Neandertal DNA! Or did I miss any new study that showed that sub-saharan populations also possess Neandertal genes?

  40. Erik
    November 14, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    Please, the documentary told us that the relatives had about just as much neanderthal DNA as anyone else, nothing about Neanderthal DNA in Khwits mtDNA.

  41. John Nowak
    December 19, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    Surely, “African woman kept in Zoo, called Bigfoot” is kind of a big deal. It wouldn’t be that hard to come up with a good advertising hook.

  42. Sisk
    January 25, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    That is a guess on your part. For Dr. Sykes to have raised the question of the possibility of it means that the possibility is not completely out of the question and bears further examination.

  43. Maggie Turner
    February 8, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    Well, this is just about the coolest “solved – unsolved mystery I’ve ever heard about! How is Zana’s story not one of the regular types of “investigations” done on all the paranormal type shows??? I love these kinds of stories because, even with actual evidence, they still prove to be mysteries! I ran across the story when I couldn’t sleep last and really couldn’t believe I’ve never even seen a documentary about her! (or is there?) It’s truly the most fascinating mystery I’ve read about in years! It’s funny too, because I was reading about something else I’d never heard of, thinking THAT was the wildest thing I’d never heard of – strange happenings in the Hoia Baciu Forest, Romania. Then I saw a link to this, AND THIS was 100 times more fascinating – and its true!! Ok, so onto my comment/question about incredible person (we can say that w/ certainty now, right? don’t wanna get into that debate! lol) and here they are:

    1. Could she have maybe suffered from the birth defect nicknamed “Werewolf Syndrome,” medically known as Congenital Hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth over the entire body)??? I googled it and though Zana didn’t seem to have all the associated symptons, she sounds like she may have had several. So, could it have been like a different “strain” or new version of the disease? I wonder if DNA tests show things like that (sorry, not a geneticist haha) and those might be able to explain why she at least looked the way she did!
    2. Again, not a scientist here, but — feral children? Even they learn to speak and can be brought back into “society” so to say, but for Zana not to have ever behaved even 1/2 way human, wouldn’t she have had to be born in the wild, from a wild “feral” mother? And not that I’m trying to shoot down this theory, its just that literally my knowledge about such cases stems from old Tarzan movies and 15 min unsolved mystery show about feral children in Russia or Bosnia (somewhere like that) who had basically been orphaned in town, city or area not too long ago that was devastated by war or some other awful thing. So, I’m genuinely asking because I’m curious what has been said, if anything, about what could possibly explain her total lack of social skills, speaking etc.
    3. Last thing……I also thought maybe she didn’t actually have hair the way it’s described, that maybe it was a description of skin color or even being a little extra hairy here in there (hahaha), but became “garbled” as time passed. But after I thought about it, I wondered if things like that can happen to that extent in our modern time? I mean it was 1899, not 1399. Does that make sense? I mean it wasn’t that long ago, we had many modern conveniences modern medicine (well sorta lol) and people lived longer. Her last descendant died in the 1950s, so its not like it was the 1300’s when people died of disease, war, famine infection, but even then people did not live much past middle age I think. So basically, 100 years ago wasnt so long ago and I jut picture stories like this become grander and grander with each retelling over 100’s of years – not 115 yrs ago. I mean, does that sound like a possibility or am I totally nuts? HAHA I dunno, it just seems like things that happen short times ago tend to be more true or have more proof…I dunno, I’m just a soccer mom that’s always been fascinated with legend, folklores, myth etc. I just want to know SOOOO bad who she was, what her story was and why she never learned to speak when humans basically do it through osmosis practically!

    I really liked your post and your thoughts, they were pretty much mine as well – all, except of course, anything you said concerning sub saharan, siberia passages, something about Europe forgotton history etc etc…. ALL above my pay-grade Im sad to say! Complicated human history stuff never stayed in my brain and never will, but ask me the names of Columubus’ ships or how the Indians showed the 1st Pilgrims how to grow food and survive? No problem! hahahaha Sorry for the longgggg post, but I have a million questions and everyone who posts here just seems to know way more than I have been able to look up so far. I just want to see someone do like a 2hr documentary on this! I hope this discussion stays active for awhile, its awesome! Riveting topic to say the least. Maybe someone can give me a few theories about her whole lack of speech thing – I hate to be repetitive, but damn! That’s just the most mysterious part for me!!! Its probably already known, but didn’t see anything about this – but could she have been deaf maybe? Hence the grunts and sounds she would only make? And where do the drawings of what she looked like or sketches, whatever…come from? When were they done? Ugh Ok, no more!!! hahahahaha

  44. Greg Owen
    February 9, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    I think that the “mystery” of her animalistic, behaviour and the embellishment of how she looked (If it was embellishment) could be explained by shame on the part of the latter day villagers, especially after the village became less remote and outsiders began to be more common. Slavery was abolished in other civilised societies. From the description I’ve read she was obviously treated as sub human and lead an early life chained and caged like and animal. Its much easier to excuse your inhuman behaviour (Including regular rape and taking her children away from her) if you can convince everyone that she was just a wild animal and not a sentient, feeling human being. Maybe she suffered long term injury from the beating she endured when she was captured so brutally, possible head injury could explain strange behaviour or lack of speech. Or as an adult in order to learn a new language you need a sympathetic teacher who recognises your intelligence and need to do so, it doesn’t sound like her owner was any of these, especially as it seems likely that he fathered all or some of her children. Lastly, did she have a tongue? Is this known, given all the other violence and indignities she was exposed to may be it would be more convenient if she couldn’t talk to express herself, to tell all that she had endured, or to ask for help. Through out history humans have excused there appaling crimes against other humans who are different in some way from themselves by demonising them or, describing them as animals who don’t deserve basic human dignity and rights. I think that Zana’s story is another example of this ignorance and prejudice. It made me feel very emotional seeing the TV show about her.

  45. John Nowak
    February 10, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    I think there’s some similarities between Zana’s described behavior and the descriptions of Victor of Aveyron and Genie as described on Wikipedia; both were described as almost insensitive to cold and neither really learned how to speak in complete sentences or was ever integrated fully into society.

  46. Keith M King
    May 24, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    Im not sure that this creature, “Sasquatch”, “Alma” ” Almasty”, ” Yeti” etc…, are wholly physical.
    Now, I’m not saying they are ghosts, but how can we explain how creatures as large as most of these
    sightings claim, can be so elusive? In addition, why has there never been a carcase? Don’t these
    creatures die? Surely, we should have found a body or skeletal remains before now, yes?
    They seem to exhibit almost supernatural abilities to evade and escape. Disappearing quite rapidly
    from view even in broad daylight. Once, a while back, I too, believed in Big Foot. But, as I kept
    running into huge inconsistencies displayed in the relatively uneven discipline of “Bigfootology”,
    I could no longer substantiate my trust in this oddly-behaving creature.
    Perhaps one day, actual empirical evidence will arise. Until then..

  47. idoubtit
    May 25, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    The supernatural creep is indicative that it is NOT a real creature, indeed. But more likely a multi-faceted human construction. Not real, not supernatural, a mind monster.

  48. busterggi (Bob Jase)
    April 4, 2015 at 5:12 PM

    Worse news for bigfooters since Jacko turned out to be a hobo.

  49. Rand
    April 4, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    As far as “Wild Hairy Men” living in the mountains…

    You just need to catch one of those modern reality shows about Alaska to see that in action. I’m seeing frequent episodes depicting guys sporting huge shaggy beards, covered in animal furs (which it perfectly reasonable if you live in a very cold climate), and avoiding most other contact with civilization. I’d say that fits the bill quite nicely for “wild hairy men”. If it can happen now, no reason it couldn’t be the same 100 years ago…. Then add in a bit of trying to make a dull encounter more exciting to make a better story… “there I was face to face with this monstrous beast”….

  50. John Nowak
    April 4, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    I’d imagine that solitude and movement barely seen might reasonably convince someone in Alaska they had seen someone when they didn’t.

    Sort of an optical Aleutian..

  51. Eric
    April 5, 2015 at 9:52 AM

    I think the concept of a “lost ancient migration” just doesn’t hold any water. To have a viable long term distinct population would obviously nessecitate pretty significant numbers over the years. Zana appears to be a “one off” which tells me she was brought there likely as a slave.

    Slavery exists to this very day in many parts if the world and has forever. So just because she existed in the late 1800s doesn’t preclude her from being a slave herself (as opposed to her being offspring if slaves or migrants).

    Bigfoot being supernatural – I doubt it. I think the likely answer is that we do see plenty of Bigfoot and find their remains. We call them bear when they are properly identified and Bigfoot when they are not. They exist but they are real misidentified real animals. Akkams razer people. Sometimes it really is just that simple!!

  52. Christine Rose
    April 5, 2015 at 9:50 PM

    The sketch in the newer article looks like a normal woman with bad teeth and a broken nose. I’m not sure what the origin of that image is–it’s found in various places.

    I think she must have been unparented from a very young age because the locals weren’t able to come up with a more plausible origin story than “last survivor of a previously unknown population of a previously unknown hominid species.” A victim of the slave trade sounds perfectly plausible, but then people would start wondering what happened to her parents, where she was born, and so on. If there’d been some sort of plausible narrative that led back to slaves, freed slaves, or escaped slaves in the area, you’d think it would have been pursued. Most feral children were either abused and neglected by an identifiable parent or lost their parents in some sort of catastrophe (usually war). But this case is different because the parents either weren’t in Russia at all or were part of a visible ethnic minority.

  53. Joerg Hensiek
    May 8, 2015 at 10:53 AM

    This possibility is not just remote. And to answer spookyparadigm and others and their theories about racial abuse etc.
    I would suggest that you read the book by Sykes before you express a conclusion to Sykes`s research on Zana.
    Therefore I cite some statements by Sykes made in his book:
    “The well-researched contemporary descriptions suggest to me that Zana had nothing to do with the modern world.”
    “The details (of her mitochondrial DNA) place Zana in the L 2C lineage, one of the oldest 12 matrilineal African clans (and therefore NOT the ancestors of modern humans, my comment)….Zana would be a survivor from an African diaspora that fizzled out in the face of competition – the later spread of Homo sapiens that left her ancestors hanging on in the remote valleys of the Caucasus.”
    “I also had the scraps of her nuclear genome scattered among her descendants. Again, the African segments DID NOT match any records.”
    “I am hard at work making sense of it and I hope to know soon whether Zanan was indeed a survivor of an antique race of humans.”
    So: Sykes will publish a scientific paper on Zana in the near future. We have to wait until this paper to be totally sure. But does this citations sound like a modern African slave? Certainly not…Sykes has found something and it sounds that the Russian anthropologists who believed Zana was a surviving Neanderthal were not this far from the truth. Well, Zana, as Sykes writes, was not a Neanderthal, but from his book it becomes totally clear that by time of writing he was convinced that Zana was NOT a modern Homo sapiens sapiens (like all people today on this planet). What exactly, we will see very soon…

  54. idoubtit
    May 8, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    I’ll be perfectly clear: This should be peer reviewed BEFORE publicizing.

    We don’t have easy access to the book in the US but extremely poor scientific form to sell such an idea in a book and bypass the peer review process.

  55. Joerg Hensiek
    May 8, 2015 at 3:39 PM

    You are certainly right in this point. I, too, found it strange that Sykes expressed his thoughts on Zana in a popular book BEFORE the scientific publication. However, I just wanted to make it clear that Sykes does not seem to favour the “modern African slave theory” anymore, as he still did one year ago when the first reports on his Zana DNA study appeared in the press and he was interviewed for a British TV documentary.
    By the way: the book can be easily obained for an E-reader via Amazon. Apology to spookyparadim and others: it was not meant personal (probably sounded a bit, but just due to my bad English). But I wanted to make it clear – as mentioned above – that Sykes very obviously now favours an “archaic human” (archaic Homo sapiens, hybrid Homo sapiens-non sapiens hominid etc.) theory. IF this is really true or not we will see if and when his paper will be published. But I am confident that one of the foremost experts on the genetic history of humans knows what he is speculating about – he certainly would not dare to express these thoughts in a book when he knows there is no scientific basis for it. Again: we will see…

  56. idoubtit
    May 8, 2015 at 5:49 PM

    Unfortunately, the Kindle version is only available to UK customers. I guess we’ll have to wait a bit longer.

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