Bryan Sykes and the mystery of Zana

Zana was a "wildwoman" who was captured in 1850 and spent decades in captivity in a village in Russia. 

Zana was believed to be an "almas", a Russian cryptid.  Almases are typically described as human-like bipedal animals, between five and six and a half feet tall, their bodies covered with reddish-brown hair, with anthropomorphic facial features including a pronounced browridge, flat nose, and a weak chin.  Zana was covered with reddish-black hair, dark-skinned, about 6.5' tall and extremely strong.  She never learned to speak the local language.   

She had children with the locals - not clear whether it was rape or not.  There are many people around there who are descendants of her. 

Bryan Sykes, a famous DNA expert, is using recent DNA science to investigate various hominid/great ape cryptids around the world, and a Channel 4 documentary relates his investigation of Zana.  

He took DNA samples from some descendants of Zana.  The DNA indicates that Zana herself was 100% sub-Saharan African!  Sykes said that Zana was most probably a slave brought to the region by the ruling Ottomans (could she perhaps talk, just never learned the local language?) 

People had speculated that Zana was a Neanderthal or a Homo erectus.  But the Neanderthal genome was sequenced recently and Sykes found Zana had no more Neanderthal DNA than other modern humans. 

Sykes looked at the skull of Zana's son Khwit and thought it had archaic features.  He speculated that Zana might have been a more archaic kind of human.  Zana's remains were never found.  Sykes is still studying the evidence. 

Perhaps Sykes can come up with some kind of consensus DNA sequence for Zana from the DNA of her descendants - I don't know if this is possible. 

If Zana was a modern sub-Saharan African, perhaps she had hypertrichosis or something like that.  The Channel 4 documentary can be viewed online.  They have a 7' tall "modern Neanderthal" in there, the former heavyweight boxing champ Nikolai Valuev

Yes, there's a Neanderthal in the Russian Parliament! 

It would be interesting for Nikolai Valuev to get his DNA tested to see if he actually has a lot of Neanderthal genes, but I don't know if this has been done. 

There are reports of wild-humans and unknown great ape all over the world.  So far Sykes' investigations have suggested that the explanation is different in different parts of the world - these reports are not all manifestations of the same phenomenon.  Sykes' "yeti" samples from the Himalayas turned out to be a previously unknown kind of bear, as I blogged earlier.  His "sasquatch" samples from North America were all known animals, such as bears. 

I like the bear (although perhaps unusual bear) theory for the North American Sasquatch.  Bears can stand on their hind legs (just as dogs can), perhaps they do this to intimidate; and front and rear bear tracks can overlap, making something that looks like the track of a bipedal sasquatch. Meldrum's book Sasquatch: Legend meets science lays out the pro-Sasquatch evidence and why he thinks it's not consistent with bears.  A National Geographic sasquatch documentary gives both pro and con points of view. 

Comments are moderated for thoughtfulness and on-topic-ness.  I don't want more of the gibes and jeers that are much too common on this subject. 


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