Bigfoot Files: Zana DNA Test Results Are In

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on November 1st, 2013

If you were expecting or even hoping that Zana was a Neanderthal or Almasty, you might be in for a shock.

From press release:

Was Russian ‘Bigfoot’ Actually An African Slave?

A leading British geneticist, who recently found the DNA key that could answer the mystery of the ‘Yeti’, has now solved the riddle of Russia’s own Bigfoot, ‘Zana’.

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.

His findings feature in a new Channel 4 documentary series, Bigfoot Files (November 3rd), presented by Mark Evans, who is on a global quest to unlock the real story of Bigfoot.

Zana’s story is extraordinary. She is said to have been captured in the forests of Abkhazia, a remote part of Russia’s Caucasus region, in the 1870s. Imprisoned, it’s said, for two decades by a local landowner, she was described by eyewitnesses as being ‘very big, strong, her whole body covered with hair’. Chillingly, Zana had four children with local men.

Russia’s ‘Almasty Hunters’ have been obsessed with her story for over half a century and have always believed that Zana could be a surviving Neanderthal, the human-like species that is thought to have died out tens of thousands of years ago.

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.

The results are complex and fascinating. First, they show that Zana was, in fact, no more Neanderthal than many of the rest of modern humans. When the Neanderthal genome was sequenced in 2010 it became clear that Europeans and Asians contain around 2 to 4% of Neanderthal DNA; almost certainly the result of interbreeding.

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 most obvious solution that springs to mind is that Zana or her ancestors were brought from Africa to Abkhazia as slaves, when it was part of the slave trading Ottoman Empire, to work as servants or labourers,” says Professor Sykes. “While the Russians ended slavery when they took over the region in the late 1850s, some Africans remained behind. Was Zana one of them, who was living wild in the forest when she was captured?“

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.

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.

One of the Russian Almasty hunters, Dr Igor Burtsev, offers testimony in the Channel 4 documentary that may back this theory up. He unearthed Khwit’s skull in 1971 and a few years later, showed it to a group of anthropologists in Moscow. They were, he says ‘amazed’, and identified a mix of ‘primitive’ and ‘progressive’ (modern) features in the skull. Lacking the scientific tools at Sykes’ disposal, they could take it no further. Now Sykes is able to propose the theory with some confidence.

It is only a theory at this stage – and a bold and speculative one at that. But Professor Sykes intends to study it much further before reaching his final conclusions.

Zana’s story will feature in Bigfoot Files on Channel 4 on Sunday, November 3rd at 8.00pm. In the programme Mark Evans also meets former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, seven foot tall Nikolai Valuev, who admits to having a bit of a Neanderthal look himself. He is now Duma Deputy (the equivalent of an MP) for Kemerovo in Siberia and fascinated in Almasty. The programme also investigates some of the other claimed sightings of the creatures in Russia.

The series, made by Icon Films, examines the stories behind famous Bigfoot sightings and Mark Evans meets people who believe passionately that other species of hominid exist. A book by Professor Sykes about his research The Yeti Enigma: A DNA Detective Story will be published by Coronet in Spring 2014.

The programme is available to view and there are images available.

From the Cryptomundo media archives:

Zana Khwit Russian Bigfoot
The rarely seen skull of Zana, showing the prognathism.

Zana Khwit Russian Bigfoot
Mother Zana and baby Khwit

Zana Khwit Russian Bigfoot

Zana Khwit Russian Bigfoot

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

10 Responses to “Bigfoot Files: Zana DNA Test Results Are In”

  1. John Kirk responds:

    This is no surprise. BCSCC members have known for two years that we suspected that Zana and her descendants had Australoid features which are consistent with those in Africans and Aborigines in Australia. We unearthed and published photos of Africans living in Abkhazia in the 19th century and posited that Zana could be of African origin.

    What surprised us is that Dr. Sykes’ findings seem to indicate a prior migration of these sub-Saharans to what we know as Russia today. Zana was hair-covered. There is no disputing that. Every eyewitness who actually saw her and was interviewed was clear about that. Did her ancestral group adapt to the northern climes by growing hair over generations? Hard to say, but possible. She was indeed a feral, but human being of ancient origins.

    The fact that Khwit’s skull was known to have ancient features as noted by the Russians over three decades ago – despite what Grover Krantz thought – should have alerted others to this intriguing anomaly. Sykes has noted the extra bone in the skull and this feature is absent from modern humans. Khwit and his mother were not run-of-the-mill people.

    I congratulate Dr. Sykes on this finding and hope that future research he intends to conduct in this area will be as exciting and interesting as it has been up to this point.

  2. DWA responds:

    What I am really liking about Sykes so far is his speculations.

    They stick to the evidence, but they don’t shut down possibilities if there is significant chance those possibilities could be the truth.

    The ideals I look to are astronomy and paleontology/-anthropology. Those seem largely driven, however, by the certainty that we’ll never empirically know, in the sense of shaking hands with a Neanderthal, confirming how and what Smilodon fatalis hunted, and sampling a spoonful of neutron star.

    I’d like to see the biology of existing life driven into the field to search by plausible, but unconfirmed, speculation.

  3. Hapa responds:

    Mind blowing. I was wondering what the findings would be, even thought they might be human, but not a human native to the region. I was hoping for Neanderthal, but this is more perplexing by far. This is truly mind blowing.

    If she was a descendant of African slaves in the region, her excess body hair could be explained as a case of hypertrichosis. However, it would not explain her physical power, or why close descendants (those examined decades before Sykes ever considered doing Cryptid DNA tests) were terribly powerful (one I believe lifted a full grown man sitting in a chair, using only his or her teeth!). Maybe Sykes is on to something when he brings up the possibility of an earlier human migration, people who were physically superior to us in part due to genetics, and who had excess body hair as well.

    I wished the results were released after the show aired (kinda spoils the surprise ending!), but I just had to read this.

  4. Paul Sims via Facebook responds:

    i wonder how many more “wild people” reports are also mistaken like this…

  5. dconstrukt responds:

    so she was african, and a human. not a bigfoot.


    and the yeti seems to be a hybrid polar bear/black bear…


    waiting to see what he finds for american bigfoot.

  6. Hapa responds:


    They already had an episode on the American Bigfoot (episode two, on Youtube for now). They found nothing. All samples turned out to be mundane animals.

  7. theguyfromtatooine responds:

    I don’t understand some people. Zana was an African, but she wasn’t a modern human (if Professor Sykes is right). So yes, this news is shocking (especially for sceptics and deniers).

  8. theguyfromtatooine responds:

    By the way, the voice in me says she could be a relict Denisovan. Time will tell…

  9. Goodfoot responds:

    Hapa: Precisely. My thinking exactly. The apparently superhuman strength and the body hair, taken together, seem to fly right in the face of the sub-Saharan descendant data. To me, it still seems to suggest at least some Almasty parentage somewhere along the line.

    The two need to be reconciled, in my mind, or else there is a lot of deeper digging to be done. And some ‘splainin’ to do.

  10. paleolinguist responds:

    paleolinguist responds:
    February 29th, 2016 at 2:55 am

    Zana, the end of a fairy tale.

    It’s absolutely clear since several years: Zana wasn’t a neanderthal or any other non-sapiens hominid. And she wasn’t any kind of non-human wild woman. This is the result of the DNA testing of the skull of Zana’s son Khwit, found by Igor Bourtsev in Abkhazia, done in the US.

    Hard to explain why Igor even today declares: The examination of the skull hasn’t finished and the question is open yet. Scientific nonsense. There were so many comments, publications and speculations about Zana over the years and now it came out: Just the early critical voices on Zana’s neanderthal origin were true. They underlined already 30 years ago Zana’s negroid physical characteristics: black skin, woolly hair, flat nose and thick lips. Eyewitnesses never described Almasty with thick, negroid lips.

    And there is a another explanation for Zana’s african genes: Arab traders sold african slaves on the Abkhazian coast in the middle ages. Some of these slaves succeeded to flee into the forests and survived there in the semi-subtropical jungle as THE BLACK FOREST PEOPLE – so called by the native Abkhazians until in present time. In summation, from a scientific point of view, all Almasty believers, especially in Moscow, should learn not to ignore critical voices, based on historical facts and genetic proof as well.

    Nevertheless, with the end of the fairy tale about the Almasty called Zana, streched over 40 years of investigations and speculations, the game should be open for a further critical check of other Russian Almasty findings and investigations. Comments are welcome.

Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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