The story of Zana, supposed Ape Woman of the Caucasus Mountains is one often revisited and reexamined by historians, explorers, and scientists alike. Now a leading geneticist believes that the wild woman who lived in 19th century Russia may have belonged to a subspecies of modern humans.
Zana was named by Russian researchers after her discovery and capture in the Ochamchir region of Abkhazia, south of Russia in the 1850’s. She was said to have been living in the wilderness, naked, but covered in a thick auburn fur, and appearing to be a cross between a human and primate.
According to International Business Times, Bryan Sykes, former Professor of Human Genetics at University of Oxford has analyzed the DNA of Zana’s descendants and has discovered West African genes, but surprisingly, her DNA did not match any known modern African group.
Sykes theorizes that her ancestors may have lived in the Caucasus Mountains for generations after leaving Africa over 100,000 years ago.
Saliva tests were carried out on Zana’s living relatives, and a tooth was available from the remains of her deceased son Khwit, reports MailOnline.
The beautiful but remote mountainous terrain of Abkhazia where Zana was found. Wikimedia Commons
The findings are controversial. Skeptics question the sources of the samples, and Sykes’ methodology.
This comes after the geneticist’s involvement in other high-profile cases dealing with disputed DNA samples and conclusions. In 2014 Sykes and colleagues published a study on their findings of mitochondrial 12S RNA sequencing in samples of “anomalous primates”, popularly called Yetis. The team concluded the samples connected the legend of the Yeti with a Paleolithic polar bear.
Zana’s existence seems to be established historically by witnesses and residents of Abkhazia, yet experts wrestle with her background and biological identity—was she simply a victimized woman suffering from a disability, or a runaway slave, or even a surviving Neanderthal?
Said to resemble cryptid legends from around the world, the hairy humanoid reportedly towered over her captors at six feet and six inches tall, and was described as incredibly muscular, powerful and “wild”. Zana was eventually sold to a local nobleman and resided at his estate until her death. She was “tamed” and forced into relationships with local men, and witnesses said she gave birth to several children who were “human” in appearance, reports Inquisitr. It is these descendants whose DNA was involved in the study.
Skull said to have belonged to Zana’s son Kehwit. (Source)
Known sons include Dzhanda and Khwit Genaba (born 1878 and 1884), and two daughters, Kodzhanar and Gamasa Genaba (born 1880 and 1882). Khwit’s skull was said to appear atypical, and anthropologist M.A.Kolodieva described it as “closest to the Neolithic Vovnigi II skulls of the fossil series.”
Sykes has published a book, The Nature of the Beast, detailing the story of Zana and her descendants. However according to Tech Times, speaking on the genetic analysis results, Sykes says “They will be published in the regular scientific press so I can’t be more specific.”
Zana reportedly died in 1890, but her anomalous genetic legacy endures as an enigma that has yet to be accounted for and resolved.
Featured Image: Could Zana have been from a surviving species of pre-human hominids, like “Lucy”, Australopithecus Afarensis? Jason Kuffer/Flickr
By Liz Leafloor
Originally published at Ancient-Origins.