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The Story of Zana the Russian Neanderthal Found in 1850

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Bill is an ex-psychiatric nurse living in North Wales. In his spare time, Bill loves writing about his interests.



The Discovery of Zana

The year is 1850. The place is the Ochamchir region of Georgia in Russia. A group of local hunters is prowling through the forests in search of whatever they can find. What they DO eventually find shakes their beliefs to their foundations and leaves the world with an enigma that has yet to be explained.

What they saw appeared to be human—and yet not human. It seemed to be young and female with ape-like features. Her arms, legs, and fingers were unusually thick. Her bosom was described as "massive," and she was covered with thick dark hair. She was also said to be absolutely ferocious, nevertheless, the hunters managed to capture her alive and brought her to the isolated mountain village of T'khina fifty miles from Sukhumi, where she was given to a nobleman called Edgi Genaba.

So violent and ferocious was she that for the first three years after her capture she was kept in a cage where she dug herself a hole to sleep in. The village people were terrified of her rages and would not venture near—food was thrown to her.

Over the course of time, she became tamer and eventually, domesticated. She was given the name Zana and was moved to a wattle enclosure, tethered at first but later released and allowed to roam free, but she never wandered far from the place where she was fed. She eventually learned some simple tasks such as grinding corn and carrying wood, but never mastered a single word of speech, her only utterances being grunts and—if angered—howls.

The women of the village remained scared of her—she could be ferocious and bite when angry—and would only come near if she was in a happy mood. Her master Edgi Genaba, however, could control her and she would react with fear if he shouted at her.

Zana the "Wild Woman"

Zana the "Wild Woman"

Zana's Wild Ways

Zana was immensely strong. It was said that she could outrun a horse. Without apparent effort, she could lift an 80-Kg sack of flour with one hand and then carry it from the water mill to the village—all uphill. She could effortlessly climb trees to retrieve grapes (which she loved). Zana also liked to roam the forest at nighttime and on warmer days would often rest in chilled pools of water alongside water buffaloes.

Zana had an aversion to heat, could not abide being in a heated room and would tear off any clothing, preferring to walk naked even during the harshest of winters. She developed a fondness for wine and would often drink herself insensible.

She had a number of children by a number of men—it has been suggested that this was the result of abuse on the many occasions that she had drunk herself into unconsciousness. She always gave birth unassisted and many of the children did not survive the birth. It has been theorised that this was due to the incompatibility of her genes with the Homo Sapien fathers.

She is known to have killed at least one of her offspring by her habit of washing the newborns in the freezing river. The babies, obviously not having inherited their mother's tolerance of cold temperatures, succumbed to hypothermia in the frigid waters. Later offspring were removed from her at birth and fostered with other families in the village.

Zana's youngest Son Khwit who died in 1954

Zana's youngest Son Khwit who died in 1954

The Skull of Khwit

The Skull of Khwit

Zana's Children

Among the theories concerning Zana's origins is one that she could be an Almas—A sort of Soviet Bigfoot—there are many anecdotal stories of such creatures having been sighted in the area she was captured. Another theory put forward by Professor Boris Porchnev of the Moscow Academy of Sciences is that she was actually a member of the remnants of a Neanderthal race that still survives in the mountainous areas of Russia.

Zana is said to have died in 1890 and the whereabouts of her skeleton is not known, so a forensic examination of her remains is not possible. Her children, however, are a different matter.

Zana's children were said to be dark-skinned, very strong, and slightly strange-looking, but despite some unusual psychological features, had the ability to learn, and their speech was regarded as relatively normal.

One of her youngest children, her son Khwit (who's father according to rumour, was Edgi Genaba himself), died in 1954. He was incredibly strongly built, and had dark skin, but apart from these two attributes, he seems to have inherited most of his facial features from his father.

Khwit's skull was given to Anthropologist M.A. Kolodieva who compared it to other typical male skulls from Abkhazia who found it to be significantly different from them. She wrote:

"The Tkhina skull exhibits an original combination of modern and ancient features ... The facial section of the skull is significantly larger in comparison with the mean Abkhaz type ... All the measurements and indices of the superciliary cranial contour are greater not only than those of the mean Abkhaz series, but also than those of the maximum size of some fossil skulls studied (or rather were compara­ble with the latter). The Tkhina skull approaches closest the Neolithic Vovnigi II skulls of the fossil series..."

Is it Possible That Neanderthals Still Walk Amongst us?

So are the detected differences in Khwit's skull, which presumably have been inherited from his mother Zana, due to the fact that Zana was indeed a different species of Human; One of many such people (if anecdotal evidence is to be believed) who continue live, animal-like and unaffected by modern life, in the remoter areas of Russia and possibly the wider world?

Could she have been, as Professor Porchnev suggested the descendant of a Neanderthal tribe, and do they, in some remote areas of the world, still walk amongst us?

© 2011 Gaizy


Andrew Petrou from Brisbane on January 04, 2015:


that wasn't my quote: that was about Professor Sykes!

I also hold an anthropology/archaeology/fine arts degree from a major university(Sydney University).

There is nothing at all that stops me from believing that genes can return from the past to influence a modern person's appearance. I certainly believe that Neanderthal genes are still in the human gene pool.

I am partial to examining archaeological fakes and I wasn't impressed with the photo quality of Zana. Many early photos were hand touched by "artists" and became almost paintings in their own right.

Bill Fife on January 02, 2015:

OK. Some here have already referred to a *photograph* of Zana, which by its own appearance would reveal many things, not the least being she was anything but typical African Homo sapiens. Obviously they got the wrong grave site.

BUT has anyone in all the internet postings found photo credits to this picture? Someone referred to it as an artists's rendering while others call it a photograph yet I find NO documentation either way.

But... if it IS a photograph, one thing is certain: she was not only NOT 100% African DNA as the results suggest, but she was even more APE than even the enhanced photos of "Pattie", the Patterson Bigfoot films indicate, as that creature had a fully-formed human NOSE (suggested by reconstructions of most Neanderthal skulls suggest), leaving us to wonder who or what these "Almas" really are and are related to. The nose I am seeing in this picture ( photo?) suggests direct descendency from a true ape, not a human, as if you compare Gorilla, Chimpanzee, Bonobo, Orangutan or even Giagantopithecus to any living human you will see the ape feature showing prominently over anything human. ...African slave? Don't insult my intelligence. I am the proud holder of an Anthropology degree from a major university. You are going to need more than that my friend. Sorry. But you are. ... Just saying. But you are.

Andrew Petrou from Brisbane on October 20, 2014:

"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."

Brandi from Maryland on October 14, 2014:

A very interesting read! I suppose the mystery remains...but the thought that she may have been a remnant of the Neanderthals is certainly an intriguing one. I can't wait to read more of your Mystery Files! :)

Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on October 14, 2014:

Very interesting story. I wish it were possible to do all the tests we have today in the time that she and her children lived. People will probably never really believe this, at least, the ones I know

Vin Chauhun from Durban on August 13, 2014:

Interesting post :)

There is a very good chance Neanderthals evolved to humans, multi-regionalism is replacing the out of Africa theory

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on September 17, 2012:

Thanks for the link simondid2 - The New Scientist article

Used the latest computer techniques to "stitch together" the most complete sequence of Neanderthal genome to date, showing that almost everyone with a non-African background contains some Neanderthal DNA, so unless Khwit was of African ancestry he will certainly have had some Neanderthal DNA in him even if it was not detectable by the technology available at the time the tests were done. - I think this is a story that could run and run :)

simondid2 on September 14, 2012:

simondid2 on September 14, 2012:

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on September 13, 2012:

Interesting simondid, Recent research shows that most people who's ancestral group developed outside Africa ( so that's me then), has some Neanderthal DNA in them. Here's a report from the science periodical " New Scientist"

simondid on September 03, 2012:

Zana's son's DNA proved to be 100% human.

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on June 21, 2012:

Thanks Shellzy, glad you liked it.

Shellzy on June 20, 2012:

Yes, i heard a shorter version of this story in a book over 20 years ago, also a soldier was scared of an ape-like creature that attacked him in a remote area, i've heard other stories too so this may well jog my memory a little bit. Thanks for this story.

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on May 28, 2012:

@ Teresa Coppens - Thanks Teresa, and hopefully there will always be mysteries for us to discover :)

Teresa Coppens from Ontario, Canada on May 28, 2012:

Awesome read. I had come across this story before while trolling the internet for a crytozoology hub I completed a while back. I found it fascinating and reason enough to believe that there are still mysteries to be discovered!

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on March 01, 2012:

@ Marisaupa - Yes,It's a strange one isn't it?

Mary's Crumbs on March 01, 2012:

Very interesting. As others have commented, I had never heard of this story before. Now I am very much intrigued.

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on November 03, 2011:

@nemanjaboskov - Thanks very much. Glad you liked it.

Nemanja Boškov from Serbia on November 03, 2011:

A great deal of research and a great style of writing!

Fantastic hub, Bill!

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on September 24, 2011:

@ Sun Pen 50 - Thanks. Yes it seems that many areas of the world have tales of similar creatures. I had not heard about Nittewa before. Very interesting.

Sun Pen 50 from Srilanka on September 24, 2011:

Gaizy, Interesting... I agree with Samantha, that there are many stories about strange people from different parts of the world. Giants, midgets, bigfoot, Yeti etc. A contribution from this little island is called "Nittewa" a kind of little people who may have lived until quite recently. ( maybe four or five centuries back). Not enough research has been done on the subject. But there are many place names, and folklore connected with these people. Sorry... I do not think much is available on the web. There is a character in Robin Hood story that has a very remarkable resemblance to the cave people I have heard of from here. Nice hub up/interesting.

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on September 06, 2011:

@ daskittlez69 - Excellent!. I read an article recently (I think it was in "Scientific American") Which said that scientists have found genetic evidence that Neaderthals didn't just die out, but were absorbed into the human species by interbreeding with them.

daskittlez69 from midwest on September 06, 2011:

I really liked this article. One of my good friends is an anthropologist, I am going to send him a link and see what he thinks.

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on September 03, 2011:

@ RNMSN - Thanks, Glad you enjoyed it.

Barbara Bethard from Tucson, Az on September 03, 2011:

wonderful read!

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on August 22, 2011:

@ samantha stacia - I agree. I think it would be unlikely that humans and neanderthals could have lived side by side for millenia without some sort of cross-breeding taking place, and the evidence must reside in our DNA somewhere.

samantha stacia from Arizona on August 22, 2011:

Among my research Ive found many such stories of people like these in different areas and I think that we do have neanderthal in some of our dna for sure. I know someone personally that has to be more than human in the way that they are stronger than average men and also never get sick and interestingly very close to nature and likes to hunt etc. Even this persons teeth are extraordinarily thick as well as thick thick bone structure and hands that are so thick at first you wonder how they use them for doing fine things like writing etc. SO I have been a believer for awhile on this one! great writing as always!

Thumbs up!

Samantha Stacia

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on August 18, 2011:

@ Alastar Packer - It's amazing what we still don't know. Makes you wonder what else there is out there, waiting to be found.

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on August 18, 2011:

@ Nell Rose - Yes fascinating isn't it? I think I found the original story on a Russian website, and then a couple of Google searches found lots of other information.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on August 17, 2011:

Awesome subject and utterly fascinating. Here we have actual evidence. The analysis on Khwit's skull points to an early Neolithic type I'll presume? If so that would tend it towards possibly some type of a remnant Neanderthal rather than a Bigfoot type lineage. Only speculation of course and wonder what's the latest on this case.

Nell Rose from England on August 17, 2011:

Hi, fascinating, this is just my type of thing, how on earth did you hear about it? I do believe that there are still different types of human out there, I mean for example homo floresiensis the hobbits or little people only died out about 18 thousand years ago, or have they? how do we know that small people today who are often labelled midgets are not in fact totally normal but just happen to be from this strain of people? great hub, cheers nell

Beth Perry from Tennesee on August 16, 2011:

Thank you! I find the lady just fascinating.

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on August 16, 2011:

@ bethperry - The photos of her and especially her son Khwit are surprisingly commonplace on the net. I think I found mine on a russian site -

Beth Perry from Tennesee on August 16, 2011:

Wow, I've read about Zana before but never realized any of her children survived. Cool! Where did you find the photos of her and her son?

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on August 16, 2011:

@ ruffridyer. Yes - There are some very strange stories out there

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on August 16, 2011:

@ Lone77star - I agree. Old Edgi must have been extremely inebriated - Poor old Zana was not exactly a "Babe" was she?

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on August 16, 2011:

@Amanda Severn - Yes, I agree, if something consistently turns up in traditional stories, then it is reasonable to assume that some actual events must be responsible.

ruffridyer from Dayton, ohio on August 16, 2011:

I have never heard this story before. Very interesting hub. It gives one pause.

Rod Martin Jr from Cebu, Philippines on August 16, 2011:

A strange and wonderful story. Edgi Genaba must've had too much wine, himself, if Khwit was his son. Zana is one ugly female. This looks hardly like the reconstructions I've seen of Neanderthals, but perhaps artists get carried away. The lead image of Neanderthal at the top of your article and that of Zana seem entirely unrelated.

Still a very interesting article.

In my own research, I've unearthed clues to a biblical timeline which places Noah's Flood at 27,970 BC. Interestingly, this coincides with the supposed demise of the Neanderthal species. Could Genesis 6's description of the "daughters" be that of Neanderthal women? Certainly, the wickedness behind the reason for the Flood could not be any ordinary evil man has continued to do. One potential evil which would have ceased 28,000 BC was that of Homo sapiens mating with Homo neanderthalensis. And thus God was satisfied that civilization had a chance with a largely pure breed of Homo sapiens, undiluted with the Neanderthal "corruption of flesh."

That's another possibility, but it would be nice to find out what really happened in our prehistory. The more clues we get, the more interesting it all becomes.

Amanda Severn from UK on August 16, 2011:

Fascinating article. Even though there is so much information available to us, there is still so much that we really don't know. This article reminds me of another HubPages hub about giants, which gives very sound evidence of their real existence in comparatively modern times. I firmly believe that anything that persistently turns up in traditional stories has some basis in fact.

Gaizy (author) from Denbigh, North Wales, UK on August 16, 2011:

@Asp52 - Thanks for your comment and vote - Yes, when one hears tales like this from around the world, it certainly makes one think doesn't it?

Andrew Stewart from England on August 16, 2011:

This is the first article i have read and i loved it! Very well written and presented, and i found all the information clear and engaging. I think it's possible that Neanderthal's could still be around us in remote area's and that there is a chance of mixing Homo-sapian DNA with Neanderthal's.Keep up the great work voted up!