Bryan Sykes Knows More than He’s Saying – And it’s Good News for Sasquatch Research

Posted by: Christopher Noël on November 8th, 2013

by Christopher Noël


While the first two episodes of the BBC series “Bigfoot Files” proved a disappointment for North American researchers, and for followers of the Yeti, last Sunday’s episode, focused on Russia, was quite another story.

The central mystery was Zana, a “wild woman” captured in the Caucasus Mountains in about 1850 and kept in captivity for several decades. She was described by multiple witnesses as being six foot six inches tall, very stoutly built, with a pronounced brow ridge and large, deep-set eyes. And here is the key detail: Except for her face, she was entirely covered in thick, reddish-brown hair.

During her lifetime, she bore at least four children by local men and the skull of a son, Khwit, has been recovered. From one of Khwit’s teeth, Professor Bryan Sykes was able to test a certain type of genetic material—mitochondrial DNA (or mtDNA)—that reveals only maternal ancestry. Khwit’s mtDNA must be identical to his mother’s, and hers identical to her mother’s, and so on, back through time. After enough generations have elapsed, however, one can notice mutations occurring.


As Professor Sykes explains in his excellent book, The Seven Daughters of Eve, the mutation rate for mtDNA is highly predictable, allowing researchers to determine quite accurately just how far back a given maternal line goes, and even generally where it came from, which group within the human evolutionary spread across our planet.

Another name for this mutation rate is the “molecular clock,” and over the past twenty years, genetic science has learned to read it with increasing refinement; indeed, customers can now have their mtDNA inexpensively analyzed in order to learn much about the history, and the geographical stomping ground, of their own distant ancestors.

But back to Bigfoot. In the most recent episode, Professor Sykes revealed that, thanks to the mtDNA recovered from her son’s tooth, the Zana mystery is partially solved: Her “people” came from southern Africa… but when? As if mtDNA does not famously enable us to determine exactly such an answer, Sykes ignores this angle altogether and shifts instead to a much cruder clue.

“Bryan noticed some unusual features on Khwit’s skull,” Mark Evans narrates, “very wide eye sockets and an elevated brow ridge that could suggest ancient, as opposed to modern, human origins. And he was starting to toy with a thought-provoking alternative notion.”

Sykes then shares it: “Maybe she isn’t an African of recent origin at all but one from a migration out of Africa many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years ago, and she comes from a relict population.”

Now, let us take the full measure of this “speculation.” If true, it would mean nothing less than that Zana was a member of a pre-modern human group mistakenly thought to be extinct—precisely what many researchers have long pointed to as the origin story of Sasquatch itself (those researchers, anyway, who don’t place this creature in the “ape” category). Keep in mind, too, that Professor Sykes has the mtDNA results from Khwit’s tooth (a scientific paper on the topic is awaiting publication) and therefore already knows the answer to whether Zana hails from a modern or an ancient period of time.

Bryan Sykes is an extremely prudent man—a conservative, world-class scientific mind. Thus, he would not have allowed himself to speculate, on international television, that Zana may have derived from a relict line of ancient Homo sapiens if the mtDNA sequences did not support this very conclusion. (It’s a conclusion, incidentally, that falls right in line with Melba Ketchum’s mtDNA findings.) If his test results had demonstrated a modern origin for Zana, it would be highly irresponsible and out of character for him even to entertain such a radically divergent hypothesis.

And finally, if Zana was merely a modern person and not, in fact, a Sasquatch (or Alma, in the Russian context), then why was she (as described) a dead ringer for the figure in the Patterson-Gimlin Film—more than a century before anyone had laid eyes upon Patty?

Christopher Noël About Christopher Noël
Christopher Noël is the author of Sasquatch Rising 2013 and editor of the newly released anthology How Sasquatch Matters: Writers Respond to the New Natural Order. Christopher Noël holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Yale. Noël is a freelance editor (ChristopherNoel.info) and lives with his daughter in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

47 Responses to “Bryan Sykes Knows More than He’s Saying – And it’s Good News for Sasquatch Research”

  1. Alamo responds:

    Curiouser and curiouser…

  2. Ploughboy responds:

    It’s the nDNA I want to know about….are we to suppose to think he didn’t recover any of that from the tooth?

    But yes, I agree he seems to be playing his cards exceedingly close to his vest, especially given the early releases about earth-shattering findings, etc…. (See, even Sykes isn’t immune from indulding in that kind of hucksterism. Grrrr.)

  3. Hapa responds:

    I think this is correct: Sykes knows no doubt a lot more about the findings than he is presenting in his show. Indeed, there had to be hairs and other organic matter bearing DNA sent to him from other nations and regions besides Russia, central Asia and the US. What were the results of those findings? Did Sykes get any supposed Yowie hairs and the like, or anything from the Yeren of China and the Orang Pendek of Indonesia? If so, what were their results…?

    BTW: That image of Zana above looks like a mix of Bigfoot and the Mona Lisa: This the Davinci DNA Code?

  4. edsbigfoot responds:


    “Bryan Sykes is an extremely prudent man?a conservative, world-class scientific mind. Thus, he would not have allowed himself to speculate, on international television, that Zana may have derived from a relict line of ancient Homo sapiens “IF” the mtDNA sequences did not support this very conclusion.

    (It?s a conclusion, incidentally, that falls right in line with Melba Ketchum?s mtDNA findings.)

    If his test results had demonstrated a modern origin for Zana, it would be highly irresponsible and out of character for him even to entertain such a radically divergent hypothesis.”

  5. bl00p responds:

    “then why was she (as described) a dead ringer for the figure in the Patterson-Gimlin Film?more than a century before anyone had laid eyes upon Patty? ”

    Am I the only one who thinks this is a gross exaggeration of facts?

  6. Surveyor responds:

    “Her ?people? came from southern Africa? but when? As if mtDNA does not famously enable us to determine exactly such an answer, Sykes ignores this angle altogether and shifts instead to a much cruder clue.”

    MtDNA cannot exactly or otherwise tell us when she or her people migrated from Southern Africa, if that is what Christopher meant. It can only tell perhaps how closely she was related to other Africans of that area, in respect to modern or more primitive genetic traits. Remember that the Denisovan hominid is supposed to have at least been phenotypically similar to the descriptions of Zana. Perhaps there is a link there that will come out in Dr. Sykes’ paper.

    bl00p, you are right, there are similarities of course, but not enough to be considered a dead ringer. From my readings and limited studies (not field research), the almas resemble humans much more closely in size and features than the sasquatch do.

    Ploughboy, the nuDNA (from Kwit) is not as telling or valuable in this case, because we are 100% certain that the alleged almas or relic DNA he received came solely from his mother, which can be seen completely in the mtDNA (which is passed down ONLY by the mother). His father’s genetic contributions are really irrelevant in this case, and since the nuDNA contains genetic info from both parents, the results found from a nuDNA test could have come from either parent, not easily attributable to either one.

    Now the nuDNA of the offspring of the half-Colville Indian/half Sasquatch Patrick from Washington State would be VERY interesting to look at!

  7. corrick responds:

    No bl00p, you aren’t alone.

    The original sources don’t describe Zana as looking like “Patty,” other than being much taller, much stronger and hairier for a woman of that time.

    Occam’s Razor would indicate Zana was a modern sub-saharan connected to the Russian slave trade, but that remains open to speculation until more information becomes available.

  8. selms687 responds:

    Sounds like so called scientists are in denial about so called ancient ancestors being more ape like when in fact there are variations in modern humans that look ancient. They don’t want to accept that god is the only true scientist that has ever existed and the rest of us are just babes in the wood compared to great all mighty. No one has proven the Bible wrong yet and just keep getting confirmations of the truths in a never changing Book that is the word of GOD. No missing links just the educated guesses that we are to believe and every time they find out they are wrong they have another educated guess that sounds good. Radio carbon dating is inaccurate they dated the mt. saint Helen flows at around 80,000 years old! Believe in GOD not men.

  9. Goodfoot responds:

    Hapa: EXACTLY! I think (no, I’m quite certain) that that was the intention of the illustration – one is struck by it RIGHT AWAY.

    I seriously doubt Zana really looked like that, though; she would have been dark, rounder of face and hirsute; I envisioned a tall, heavy, very hairy version of Aunt Esther on SANFORD AND SON; but I’m just perpetuating a running Fred Sanford joke, aren’t I?

    “Sykes then shares it: ?Maybe she isn?t an African of recent origin at all but one from a migration out of Africa many thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years ago, and she comes from a relict population.?

    Wow. I get goose bumps every time I read that. RELICT POPULATION. Did you hear that, Ivan Sanderson?

  10. Goodfoot responds:

    bl00p: I think you’re reading way too much into that; but maybe that’s just me. Concentrate on the facts; that’s just opinion.

  11. Goodfoot responds:

    “His father?s genetic contributions are really irrelevant in this case”

    “Irrelevant”? This is an odd turn of phrase, to me. Could you elaborate on this?

  12. Goodfoot responds:

    “Occam?s Razor would indicate Zana was a modern sub-saharan connected to the Russian slave trade”

    Could you say more about what comes after “Zana” above? I have trouble with Occam’s Razor in general – sometimes the truth IS very complicated, which means Occam’s Razor is completely useless as a tool. I threw mine out of the tool bag long ago. If I ever really had it.

    Here, Occam’s Razor would not be applicable anyway, as “Russian slave trade” is 100% *speculative*: there is absolutely nothing to indicate that this is so. Or that it is not so.

    As I said, if the truth is sometimes quite complicated. The truth, once revealed, appears simple, but only because we’ve just found it. Can we just do away with Occam’s Razor altogether?

    I’m in an inquisitive mood today, so kindly humor me.

  13. Goodfoot responds:

    selms687: the trouble with the Bible is that it was written by MEN, not God. Unless your copy is autographed by God. Mine is not.

    Men – human beings – are fallible. And, for all we know, so is God. Ever seen a picture of a Duck-Billed Platypus? To me, the Platypus may be proof that God – if he exists, has a sense of humor. But you are talking about your personal beliefs, not proof. You may think you have proof, but what you have are BELIEFS, not “proof”. There is as much proof that God exists as that he does not. There is truly no way of “knowing”. I’m fine with that, personally. Where no proof exists, we are allowed belief. If we have need of belief.

    Not being critical of your beliefs; you are as entitled to them. I’m in a mood, so please forgive me. Everyone on CRYPTOMUNDO has beliefs; none of us has proof.

    Even my personal Bigfoot experience do not rise beyond belief; I have no proof of Bigfoot’s existence, despite my experiences.

  14. semillama responds:

    Even if from a relict population of humans, tens of thousands of years for her population still puts Zana squarely within Homo sapiens, as does her mT DNA. Of course, like the other revelation that a Pleistocene bear species is roaming the Himalayas, a revelation that a group of humans migrated out of Africa and remained genetically isolated in Russia is rather major news for paleoanthropology. Still, I’m curious to see what Sykes has in the bag about his analysis that hasn’t come out yet.

  15. Lesley Cox responds:

    Surveyor: “Remember that the Denisovan hominid is supposed to have at least been phenotypically similar to the descriptions of Zana. Perhaps there is a link there that will come out in Dr. Sykes? paper.”

    A couple of years ago, some of the earliest human remains were found in the Ukraine – dated 32,000 years old. They were tagged as being Homo sapiens sapiens. I understand there was some overlap between the species so, if we’re talking about Zana possibly being a part of a relict human species, I’d say she could be either Homo sapiens sapiens or Homo denisovan.

    I’m aware that we’re jumping the gun here, but there’s no harm in speculation.

  16. Maqa responds:

    I wonder why someone above (?) said the father’s DNA is irrelevant. In Melba Ketchum’s, or rather the Sasquatch genome project’s, they were totally relevant. The mtDNA came out totally H. sapiens sapiens, so the labs kept saying the samples must’ve been contaminated by the human handlers. It was only when Ketchum got into the nuDNA that she found an unknown paternal entity which had no match in the entire Gen Bank. The critter whose hair was not a match for human, nor any other known hair, but whose female ancestor was 100% human, had an unknown male ancestor. So it seems Zana had an H. sapiens sapiens maternal ancestor as well, which so far matches the findings from the Sasquatch Genome Project! (Though perhaps a different haplotype.) Now let’s see who her nuDNA matches. Ketchum’s study indicates about a 13,000 year ago origin for the hybridization resulting in the Sasquatch.

    And about the Yetis who turned out to be a kind of bear, we should note that there have been 3 classifications of the term Yeti: a small one, a larger one, and a huge one which is perhaps the bear type some of whose existing remains have a bear type face, not a primate one. So will we have some genetic analyses of these last 2 types? (See Wikipedia under Yeti for the mention of the 3 types.)

  17. Goodfoot responds:

    “The mtDNA came out totally H. sapiens sapiens, so the labs kept saying the samples must?ve been contaminated by the human handlers”

    I question the validity of the assumption also. Why is that a valid assumption, necessarily? Can someone help me out? It seems rather unscientific.

  18. Surveyor responds:

    I’ll have to catch these in order, based on responses to my comments.

    ?His father?s genetic contributions are really irrelevant in this case?

    Goodfoot: ?Irrelevant?? This is an odd turn of phrase, to me. Could you elaborate on this?”

    I did elaborate on it when I wrote it, devoting an entire paragraph to explaining why. However, sometimes there is a discrepancy between what one is intending to get across and what people actually get out of what is written, so I will reword it a bit.

    In this case, the entire episode and situation revolves around discovering the identity of Zana, via genetics of her descendants and some genetic and phenotypic study of the remains of her son, Kwit. We know that his father was a person in the village (one of several who allegedly got her drunk and took advantage of her). Neither Dr. Sykes study nor anyone else I have ever personally met or talked to has shown the least bit of interest in spending the time or money to find out what man may have been his father, because it has no bearing at all on proving whether Zana was a modern human, an Almas, or a Neanderthal, etc. Do you follow the logic I used in saying that the identity (and/or DNA) of Kwit’s father is irrelevant to this case now? Once again, in its most basic terms, all the study wanted to establish is, “What was Zana and where did she come from?”, and whatever man had sex with her to father Kwit cannot give us that information.

    Maqa: “I wonder why someone above (?) said the father?s DNA is irrelevant. In Melba Ketchum?s, or rather the Sasquatch genome project?s, they were totally relevant.”

    In Dr. Ketchum’s study, no one knew what was in the maternal line or the paternal line. When they tested the mtDNA and saw that it was human or nearly identical to it, they realized they would have to run tests on the NuDNA (which they probably would have done anyway in order to make sure everything was fully tested). In this situation, we already know that Kwit’s father was a normal, caucasian, fully modern human, just like everyone else in the village where he lived – except for his mother, Zana. Therefore, the DNA from Kwit’s father is totally irrelevant in this study. Zana’s identity was the only unknown in this case. If her grave could be found, and nuDNA could be extracted from it (giving us info from her paternal line, as we already have mtDNA to trace her maternal line), then that would be totally amazing! Kwit’s mtDNA was tested because Dr. Sykes knew that all of his mtDNA was passed down to him from his mother, Zana, and could not be affected at all by any DNA contributed by his father.

    Goodfoot: “Here, Occam?s Razor would not be applicable anyway, as ?Russian slave trade? is 100% *speculative*: there is absolutely nothing to indicate that this is so. Or that it is not so.”

    This was a comment directed to someone else, but I will shed some light on it for you. The slave trade that existed in the region where Zana was later captured existed under the Turkish Ottoman Empire. When the Russians drove them out as the Ottoman Empire began to crumble, Russia banned slavery in the area. This was briefly discussed in the episode that featured Zana.

    Lesley: “A couple of years ago, some of the earliest human remains were found in the Ukraine ? dated 32,000 years old. They were tagged as being Homo sapiens sapiens.”

    You might find this pretty interesting, if you have not read about it already. Archaeologists have discovered the first fully intact hominid skull ever found at the Dmaninsi dig site in the Republic of Georgia, a stone’s throw from where the Zana tale took place. This skull, which is one of the oldest found, exhibits a combination of modern and archaic features, and has shaken the entire world of anthropology, causing them to consider rewriting the entire theory of human evolution. The skull has already caused them to say that all the once thought separate species of early man are actually likely representatives of a single species, with small regional adaptations. I don’t think we can post links on here, but you can read one article about it on blogs dot discovermagazine dot com posted October 17, under the title Hominid Skull Spurs Radical Rewrite of Human Evolution.

  19. Goodfoot responds:

    Thanks, Surveyor. My point about Occam’s Razor and the Slave Trade was that, since no one has proof that Zana had any connection to the Russian slave trade in the Caucasus or elsewhere, or hadn’t, applying Occam’s Razor had no point.

  20. Lesley Cox responds:

    “Archaeologists have discovered the first fully intact hominid skull ever found at the Dmaninsi dig site in the Republic of Georgia, a stone?s throw from where the Zana tale took place.”

    Yes, I had seen it but hadn’t made any Zana connection. Thank you. As I understand it, the Dmanisi hominins date back 2.4 million years – maybe 1.6. They’re tagged as Erectus, but resemble Habilis in some features. As a point of interest that’s around the same time as Nariokatoni boy.

  21. corrick responds:

    Surveyor, thank you. Great stuff.
    And Goodfoot while I agree with you that there is no proof that Zana had any connection to the Russian slave trade in the Caucasus (which included sub-saharans, btw), there is also no proof that Zara was part of any “relict” population. That part by Sykes was strictly speculation by him alone. Personally, I’d love for Zana to be proven as part of some relict homo race, but until then, Occam?s Razor says the most likely answer is that she was some sub-saharan remnant of the Ottoman slave trade. Again, most likely, but not proven.

  22. Ploughboy responds:

    Surveyor/Goodfoot….I got us off on that tangent about nuclear DNA, my mistake. I hadn’t realized until I read the replies that the DNA was recovered not from Zana, but from her son. Yes, of course, we wouldn’t care in that instance. Sorry for that.

    But it also begs the question, was there any effort to recover DNA from Zana’s remains, or has is that even a possiblity.

  23. Goodfoot responds:

    ploughboy: If I recall correctly, the location of Zana’s remains is quite vague. IF the location could be narrowed down, ground-penetrating radar might be able to locate… well, what it locates is human remains and other variances in density underground. It cannot locate a specific body.

  24. Ploughboy responds:

    Goodfoot..thanks! I do find the coverage of the difficulties Sykes had with Icon Films to hold out encouragement that he will be releasing other and further findings when his study is published.

  25. Surveyor responds:

    Zana’s remains have not yet been discovered, although someone has mentioned that Igor located the remains of someone of African descent, but considered them irrelevant and unconnected to his search, and continued looking. Perhaps he found her after all and didn’t realize it.

    As far as relating Zana to the slave trade in the area that existed prior to the Russian takeover, that is, without other solid evidence, the most logical conclusion. The Republic of Georgia is part of the area called the Levant, which is the only completely land route from Africa into Europe and Asia. That is why it was so important to the earlier slave trade that existed under the Ottomans. It would not be possible to place a number on the Africans and others who were transported through that region. It is also considered to be the route that all previous ancient human migrations out of Africa took, which is why the area is so rich in fossils of ancient humans and their encampments. If Almas are a relict population, they have remained in the area their ancestors lived in for millennia.

  26. Goodfoot responds:

    All right. Since this “slave trade” thing has been hauled out of the closet (where, IMO, it belongs), we’re now forced to give it a good looking over.

    So… Zana, as an escaped “sub-Saharan” victim of the Ottoman slave trade. Pre-Soviet style. Or, as seems more likely, the descendent of escaped sub-Saharan slaves, who hid out in the local ridges and vales of the Caucasus.

    Very well. Can anyone see that we have at least two rather thorny problems here, the second being much thornier than the first?

    First of all, aren’t we supposed to at least try and account for what happened to Zana’s parents, from which she must necessarily be the product of their union? Perhaps we can ignore that, and just say they were never seen or found. Or that they didn’t escape, but Zana did…

    Which leaves us with Zana herself, this supposedly escaped slave of sub-Saharan origin (at some point in the distant past). Or product of escaped slaves of the same type. Or something.

    The problem, as I see it, is Zana herself. A “tall, massive” woman, perhaps seven feet tall. COVERED WITH HAIR. Who went naked year round. In the Caucasus. Who liked to lie down with buffaloes. Who swam mighty rivers in spring flood. Who slept year round in a hole in the ground SHE DUG WITH HER OWN HANDS. Who could not stand the heat of enclosed places. Who could not eat cooked food.

    WHO WAS COVERED IN HAIR. And enormous.

    Just what sort of “sub-Saharan” descendents might her PARENTS have been, exactly? Doesn’t it seem FAR more likely that she was the product of a local ABSM family of Abkhazia ALMASTYS, or, since she seems to have been far larger than the average Almasty, local Kaptars?

    I realize that this opinion may be at odds with Sykes’ DNA work; but really, which are you going to believe, THE DNA EVIDENCE, OR YOUR LYING EYES?

  27. Surveyor responds:

    Zoologist Professor Alexander Mashkovtsev, the man who first recorded the story of Zana from 1st hand reports of her, did not ascribe any height to her at all, but just said she was tall and broad. This is true of many Africans. I don’t know of any Africans today who are covered with hair, or who have any body hair for that matter. For the sake of argument, many escaped slaves lived for decades in the wilds of the U.S. before the Emancipation Proclamation. Also, if we have to choose between DNA and stories passed down about Zana (unlike your comment, we don’t have our eyes to trust, or the eyes of those who saw her, as they are all dead and stories may have been embellished, who knows?), then we must trust the only solid evidence that we have. This is where Christopher Noel’s post, above, comes in. Though Dr. Sykes determined Zana was of sub-Saharan African ancestry, perhaps she was of very primitive ancestry, and her ancestors emigrated from Africa long before modern humans, which explains her phenotypic differences from us. If so, that may be true of all the Almas. Instead of being Neanderthals, as has been previously thought, they may simply be a primitive form of H. sapiens, say archaic H. sapiens.

  28. Goodfoot responds:


  29. Hapa responds:

    In order for the “Ottoman slave” theory to work, we would have to explain away Zana’s excess body hair as hypertricosis (Probably not spelled right), or werewolf syndrome, which causes excess hair. Her large size can be explained as well, since some African tribes are known for great height , though not necessarily for great girth at the same time. Her great strength could be explained away as being the product of living in the wild, as a feral human, relying on brute force to survive. In manthropology, Peter McAllister pointed out that if you bring a child up with strenous physical activity (like one would in the ancient or near modern world), that child will grow to have superb physicality compared to the average person in the western world today (our lifestyles have made us comparatively soft to our ancestors). Their physical capabilities outstretched ours in many ways

    However, this does not explain why her descendants were so physically powerful as well (one young girl descended from Zana lifted a full grown man using her teeth alone, while he sat in a chair). Nor does this explain the primitive features of her son’s skull, which had a bone in it that none have in their today. You cannot pass that off as simply sub Saharan African slaves hiding out in the boonies: that great strength and odd skull structure is indicative of genetic difference. She was human, but she was not like your next door neighbor either.

  30. Surveyor responds:

    Everything we know about Zana’s appearance is based on stories passed down, and elderly people interviewed by Prof. Mashkovtsev in 1962 describing what they saw when they were extremely young. Neither of those are very reliable. Although I like those aspects of the story myself, it does nothing for the reliability of the descriptions of her. The same things can be said about the feats of strength of her children. I haven’t heard the one about her daughter, but in the documentary a villager said Khwit once lifted a solid wooden table with his teeth that was 1 meter wide by 3 meters long by gripping the end of it (one meter wide part), and held it straight out in front of him. Naturally that is near impossible for any kind of animal to do, and it takes as much neck and back strength as is does tooth and jaw strength, as well as pure bodyweight to offset the weight of the table, otherwise he would have simply fallen forward.

    Khwit’s skull has no more bones in it than that of modern humans. What was striking about his skull, as evidenced by his portrait (photo of him), is that he possessed features that are not consistent with caucasian people. However, those features are consistent with certain groups of pure African people and primitive groups of both causians and Africans. That is what caused Igor to be certain that he had uncovered the correct set of remains when he found them in the village graveyard. If you look at Khwit’s photo, he looks very much like someone of African descent, with a few caucasian features.

  31. Goodfoot responds:


    Slept in a hole she dug herself

    Large size, covered in hair

    Extraordinary strength

    Could not tolerate room temperature – NOT a trait of sub-Saharans (clear extreme variance of humanoid adaptability)


    Never considered as a possible human being by those who “owner” her

    *OCCAM’S RAZOR, Goodfoot variant: A large number of obvious factors at extreme variance with established norms and expectations SHALL FORTHWITH be considered “the simplest explanation”. 😉

  32. Hapa responds:


    I sincerely doubt that a legendary large hairy ape woman tale, which is relatively recent and had near modern eyewitness testimony, could have arisen from encounters with a normal looking African slave. It could be that she was a feral child or human, descended from African slaves but for some reason lived on her own like a wild animal, and that this might have been inflated over time into a giant hairy strong wild woman, but the primitive features of Kwit’s skull, the eyewitness accounts, and several other lines of evidence argue against this.

    I did some research: it was a grandchild, a boy, that lifted a full grown man with his teeth, not a girl. Hominologist Boris Porshnev encountered him and several other grandchildren of Zana (Named Shalikula). Though Shalikula was noted for great strength, all had robust muscles and jaw features as well as dark skin. Kwit was also known for great strength, and so was, incidentally, Zana.

    Here is the passage from the website below:

    “In his field research interviewing the residents of Abkhazia, Russian hominologist Boris Porshnev met several of Zana’s grandchildren. He remarked that he was immediately impressed by their dark skin and non-Caucasoid looks. One of the grandchildren, Shalikula was exceptionally strong, and could pick up a grown man sitting in a chair by grasping and lifting the chair with his jaws and teeth! Two other grandchildren, Chalikoua and Taia, were also reported to have the same general appearance and notably robust jaw muscles and bone structure.”

    I original read about this in a book in a Time-Life series dealing with the paranormal, specifically the book called “Mysterious Creatures”. I have the book in a box somewhere so It will be a while before I can retrieve that info in full (hard as nails trying to get that info from that book online!).

    As for the extra bone in the skull: this was mentioned previously in a Cryptomundo blog, see below:

    “But that theory would not explain her extraordinary features, described by reliable eyewitnesses. There is an even more intriguing alternative theory. Having carefully studied the skull of Zana?s son, Khwit, Professor Sykes believes there are some unusual morphological skull features ? such as very wide eye sockets, an elevated brow ridge and what appears to be an additional bone at the back of the skull ? that could suggest ancient, as opposed to modern, human origins.”

    It would be interesting if the extra bone has recently been proven to not be an extra bone, but I have not heard of any correction in this regard.

  33. corrick responds:

    Well stated Surveyor.

    And particularly for you citing the Alexander Mashkovtsev’s account. Most people don’t realize how much original accounts can change over the years into something almost entirely different.

  34. Surveyor responds:

    All of those things are based on stories handed down for several generations, not actual, observed or provable facts. DNA is observable and provable. I personally believe the story of Zana, but it is not provable as passed down, and it is not the most likely explanation of what occurred. The most likely explanation, based on actual existing physical evidence, is the slave hypothesis, since DNA from Khwit supports that as does his skull morphology and the phenotypic traits seen in the photo of him. No physical evidence that we know of exists to support any of the claims that Zana was hairy, massive, extra tall, etc. It would be awesome if some evidence was discovered and brought forward. Word of mouth and generational stories are not evidence, and are highly likely to be exagerrated. All of the eyewitnesses who were originally interviewed were small children when Zana died and were in their 80’s and 90’s when interviewed. As children they were frightened by their parents with stories of Zana as a “boogie woman” who would get them if they misbehaved (this comes straight from the report taken in 1962). With that in mind, how accurately would those very old people be able to describe the boogie woman of their childhood? Think about it. No one alive knows what she looked like at all.

  35. Hapa responds:


    Exaggeration does not explain the extra bone in the skull (as shown above), nor does it explain other primitive features of the skull, which are different enough from modern skulls to get a Scientist like Sykes to put himself on the line with a theory that Zana belonged to a population of Africans that entered Asia many thousands of years ago. Such a theory should be provable or disprovable with an examination of the DNA itself: Probably Sykes is not divulging everything about Zana and the DNA study on Bigfoot Files. He wouldn’t make such a claim without being able to back it up, and he would not have a problem getting paleoanthropologists to inspect Kwit’s skull and see if they confirm or deny his hypothesis. If they confirm it (assuming they have not done so already, and their findings being put into Sykes study), doubts about the Zana story due to time and exaggeration, and the theory that Zana is simply an African slave, are blown away like chaff.

    True, sometimes eyewitness testimony is very unreliable, and stories do evolve over time. However, on numerous occasions, people have scoffed at things people had talked about and witnessed for similar reasons that you have for disregarding the original Zana story and the later reports by Boris porshnev, only to be proven wrong (The duckbill platypus, Gorillas, giant squid, etc).

    The fact that Zana was made into a Nursery Boogie proves nothing: Archimedes was made into a Nursery Boogie on Sicily (he was from Syracuse, Sicily) after the devastation he wrought on Roman armies that tried (and eventually succeeded in) sacking the city. He is still a Nursery boogie there today. Exaggeration? Probably, but nobody thinks that he was just some average guy that was a little bit smarter than normal that spawned stories of a super genius: for his time, he was indeed a super genius who used his intellect to devastate the Romans when they besieged Syracuse

    The lead scientist in this study has concluded that Zana could, not for certain but could, be from a relict population of Africans who made the trek into Asia many thousands of years ago, based on the very primitive features of the skull, at the very least some of which is no longer found in modern populations today. This is not a possibility that should be brushed aside, but should be instead investigated and tested, to see if there is any reason too disregard it. Until this hypothesis is blown out of the water by science (i.e. the skull features explained, further work on the dna of Kwit’s remains and Zana’s descendants), Occam’s razor cannot be used to remove it from consideration.

  36. Goodfoot responds:

    Accounts DO change, corrick. Hard to argue against. It would seem you are suggesting Zana might actually have been a short, weak, human-looking being. It could actually be true.

    In which case, why are we looking at Zana AT ALL? According to your theory, she may have been quite ordinary.

    Which makes me, at least, wonder what it was that made her seem, to others, so exceptional in any way whatsoever. We had just as well cease to look for differences, and assume all humanoids are really the same.

    Either people are decent observers of differentiations in people, or they are not. If they are not, there is no use in examining human observations at ALL, and we should just fold this stupid tent up and go home. OR NOT.

  37. Goodfoot responds:

    Nothing to see here, folks. Zana’s fellow villagers were zapped on rye ergot.

    Alternatively, the whole affair was a misunderstanding about genetic polymorphism. Late 19th century people in the Caucasus were as totally incapable of discerning differentiations as your average 300-pound Walmart shopper.

    See? Anthropological observation is subject to the infinite attenuation of “experts”.

    Some of us will not allow you to have it both ways.

  38. Surveyor responds:

    Where is the harm in investigating interesting mysteries, simply because you might find out that they have ordinary solutions? Do you have a vested interest that is placed in danger if Zana is not a relict hairy hominid, Goodfoot? By insisting that the results be that she must be one thing, say an Almas, and making comments such as you have about any other possibility (a normal human), you have lost your objectivity, and have disqualified yourself from making an unbiased opinion as to her origins.

    The point in science is to approach the subject with no bias, and to have no concern over what the results may turn out to be. That makes it possible to uncover the truth without allowing personal bias to interfere at all. In order to maintain credibility in the field of cryptozoology, we must be critical of what we accept as evidence and rank it according to reliability, just as any other science does. If I didn’t believe in the possibility of Sasquatch, and even the possibility that Zana might be something besides a normal person, I wouldn’t waste my time posting on a cryptozoology-oriented site. However, I remain grounded and follow the actual existing evidence, where evidence happens to exist (there are situations where none exists at all). The only good researcher is a researcher who follows wherever the evidence leads, not one who decides what the end result should be based on his own beliefs or those of others despite the actual evidence.

    I thoroughly enjoy all things Bigfoot, and hope that they are proven to exist, as I maintain hope that Dr. Sykes was hinting at potential results in his paper when he mentioned a potential earlier relict origin for Zana (as the article we are commenting on suggests), but my world won’t end if none of that happens to be true or proven. I will have simply met some great folks, shared some great stories, and explored some beautiful country!

  39. Goodfoot responds:

    Hapa: many thanks. I’ve been around the horn, and I have zero technical degrees, but I have seen what they can do to some people. A degree should enable one to be open to growth and maturation of knowledge, not to make one think one has obtained the sum of all knowledge.

    I have developed an excellent sense of when some people who have assumed the Badge of Firm Education in Sciences are trying to protect what they think they know.

    All knowledge is accumulative; no book is ever closed.

    Thank goodness; I could not live in such a world. My sense of imminence tells me that the Story of Zana is being wrapped up and packaged for popular consumption.

    Uh-uh. I can see there’s a larger story about this to unfold and if someone believes they can bully this into a closed coffin funeral? Well, if you prove your case eventually, I’ll shake your hand, or paw. Or your Paw’s hand.

    My message: NOT SO QUICK, COUSINS!!

    And if I prove to be wrong, then I know I’ve proved my usefulness!

  40. Goodfoot responds:

    Surveyor: I’m mystified. Why are you putting things into my mouth that I never even suggested? Read everything I said. Reformulate your questions(s). I am NOT saying what you claim I am saying.

    If I am, please point it out, in detail; it is not I being combative with you. It’s the other way around. I have a right to raise questions, do I not? If not, please state why I do not. Is it because I’m your intellectual inferior? I concede it’s possible, maybe even likely.

    But the fool may sometimes see what the genius does not.

    I’m not setting up a quibble with you, nor did I set out to you. I posed a series of serious questions. Serious issues exist with respect of Zana as a mere spawn of escaped “sub-Saharan” slaves. It is those you need to be addressing. I do not have any personal issues with you. NONE.

    This is supposed to Science. Science is investigation and questioning of tenets. That’s the extent of my inquiries.

  41. Hapa responds:

    The theory that Zana was only a sub Saharan slave solely rests on the possibility that she was a feral human, one who was abandoned into the wild at a young age and then subsequently captured, but otherwise a human descended from African slaves: I can see an incident of that nature over time giving rise to a giant hairy wild woman of the woods tale. However, as I said above, this would not explain the archaic features of her son Kwit’s skull (I believe other skulls of her children or descendants have been found, sharing the same traits, but I am not sure of this), whose father was a regular man of the area (implying that the skull of Zana was even more primitive), Nor the passing on of great strength to some of her descendants (Kwit, Shalikula, maybe others), a trait she was said to have shared herself.

  42. Surveyor responds:

    This thing is getting way out of hand and bordering on silliness. I haven’t put any words in anyone’s mouth, and I haven’t made any statements suggesting absolutes. I said we don’t know her origins, and the only concrete evidence we have is the DNA and Khwit’s skull. This can be easily seen by reviewing my posts. I also said that physical evidence trumps passed down witness accounts, and gave examples of how such accounts can get significantly distorted over many tellings. At no time did I say they actually had been distorted, because I cannot possibly know that, anymore than anyone else can. All I know is what the DNA revealed, what Khwit looked like in his photo, and what his skull looks like now. Who here knows more than this? Btw, none of her other children’s remains have been recovered or found to exhibit non-caucasoid features.

    The back of the skull is the occipital bun, one bone, and Khwit’s appeared to be thicker, or have “extra” bone. “An extra” bone is a type-o. The strong features on Khwit’s skull are more like Africans than caucasians, but they are even more pronounced than most modern Africans. Look back in my comments, again, and you will see where I suggested that these primitive feature, which Dr. Sykes commented on, may suggest that he has discovered more telling genetic information that was released in the TV show, and will be released in his paper. I even figured that to be likely. Why would he make such a speculation on the show? As I said before, this entire article we are commenting on is based on that speculation.

    I’ve never had to repeat myself so many times in one series of comments as far as I can remember. Anyone who goes back to read my previous comments will easily see that:

    1) I never made any claims as to Zana’s origins

    2) I never said she was not a relict hominind or that she was one

    3) I never said she was not a product of the African slave trade or that she was a product of it

    4) I never said any of the stories about her were true or were false

    5) I Never said passed down stories about her were distorted; I said they could be

    6) I said the most likely story, BASED ON ACTUAL PHYSICAL EVIDENCE, was that she was a modern sub-Saharan African, likely a slave or descendant of one. However, I said that was most likely based on that evidence (the published DNA) NOT THAT SHE WAS of recent African descent. I don’t know. None of us do. We have limited info. Again, in caps for emphasis, I DID NOT SAY SHE WAS A MODERN AFRICAN/SLAVE.

    7) I said, more than once, that I BELIEVE THE STORY of Zana, but there is NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE CURRENTLY PUBLICIZED to prove it, and it won’t make me or break me if it’s true or not. I have nothing vested in it. I am unbiased.

    I don’t have to account for anything about Zana, her parents, how she became feral (if that is what happened), or anything else; it’s not my story. If I say a Sasquatch walked under my deer stand yesterday, and I want people who don’t know me to believe it, THEN it is up to me to offer proof to back up my story. Zana died 100 years before I was born. Let’s see where the physical evidence leads. If you (whoever, I’m not singling Goodfoot out in this case) don’t want to follow that (the actual physical evidence, and not just the stories), or believe you can better asses the story than the folks who are actually working on it (not me, I just read the same stuff you guys do), then run with it. Just please don’t ascribe anything to me beyond the 7 points I’ve outlined in this comment. I’ve pretty well tired of going back and forth over this subject, especially when not a single one of us can add anything to it or prove a single thing that hasn’t already been proven. Good luck to the folks in lab coats!

    Thanks & God bless.

  43. Surveyor responds:

    Ha! I just realized that I misspelled “assess”, and it looks like a curse word now. Sorry about that. The word “asses” in the last paragraph should be “assess”. I hope I didn’t accidentally offend anyone.

  44. Goodfoot responds:

    hapa: I agree. The idea that Zana was a feral, sub-Saharan human doesn’t really walk hand-in-hand with Occam’s Razor, does it?

    My personal feeling is that Occam’s Razor is very lacking as an explanation for just about everything one might encounter in real-world complexity, and really ought to be abandoned as a useless tool.

    Speaking of “useless tools”….

  45. Lesley Cox responds:

    This is turning out to be a very informative thread. Thanks all for the points of view! I think, and I’m speaking for myself now, that cryptology ‘fans’ tend to be very sensitive these days – and understandably so. Wherever we look we come across the dreaded ‘scoftics’. In those circumstances it’s easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater and ignore ‘real’ scepticism. We all need to be on top of our game when it comes to interpreting evidence. We need to be sure that the claims we make are based on solid information. We all need to show a sceptical point of view when we’re faced with people who just throw the ‘nope’ word at us. We have to be able to answer that with reasoned responses.

    This isn’t a criticism of anyone on this thread by the way. I just feel that all points of view are valuable to help us shape our opinions.

    Thanks all.

  46. Hapa responds:

    Interesting points, Surveyor, and I am sorry if I labeled your ideas more absolute than you intended. I am not convinced that the “extra bone” is a typ-o (that needs to be confirmed before anyone can disregard that statement, and there is no link to explain or show this), nor am I going to disregard the other primitive features of the skull, until more evidence is presented. However Sykes was said to have agreed on the show that the slave theory was the more likely (possibly subject to change in the near future). I do agree that Sykes has more up his sleeve than he presented on the show.

    Speculation is ripe, but soon I feel that with the publication of Syke’s paper and later book, that speculation will give way to more discovery.

  47. DWA responds:


    I have trouble with Occam?s Razor in general ? sometimes the truth IS very complicated, which means Occam?s Razor is completely useless as a tool. I threw mine out of the tool bag long ago. If I ever really had it.

    Here, Occam?s Razor would not be applicable anyway, as ?Russian slave trade? is 100% *speculative*: there is absolutely nothing to indicate that this is so. Or that it is not so.

    As I said, if the truth is sometimes quite complicated. The truth, once revealed, appears simple, but only because we?ve just found it. Can we just do away with Occam?s Razor altogether?

    I?m in an inquisitive mood today, so kindly humor me.


    Occam’s Razor is one of the world’s most effective mental tools, and utterly critical to practicing science. It is, for example, the way we know the bigfoot skeptics can be safely ignored; they utterly misuse it, and their explanations utterly fail it.

    It is not, however, practicing science. Not when used alone it isn’t. It only gives one the starting point for doing that; and it always trades simplicity for explanatory power. (“Giants crying” sounds simple; but that’s not why it rains. “Light shining through little holes punched in a big dark tent” doesn’t explain stars.)

    Occam’s Razor only works when used as directed. And haven’t we heard that before.

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