Dec 24, 2020 I Nick Redfern

“It Was a Strange, Savage-Looking Thing of Primitive Proportions”

In the last few days I've written articles on the late Bryan Sykes and his investigations into the likes of Bigfoot, the Almasty and the Yeti. And, I discussed the matter of the almost legendary figure known as Zana. So, I thought that, today, I would share with you more of this story. It was in 1964 that Professor Boris Porshnev uncovered, in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains,  what was described to him by the villagers of Tkhina as the bones of a female Almasty, Russia’s very own Bigfoot Or, primitive human. Brad Steiger says that according to Porshnev, a "preliminary investigation of the skeleton determined that its skeletal structure was different to that of a female member of Homo sapiens." It was a discovery that became inextricably linked to a story that dated back to the 1800s, specifically to the mid-1860s. There was a story in the area that a nobleman by the name of Edgi Genaba, who had an estate in Tkhana, returned to the village one day with something remarkable in tow. It was a strange, savage-looking thing of primitive proportions. Clearly, in some respects, at least, it was human. But, as to whether it was actually Homo sapiens, that is a very different matter entirely. Reportedly, the creature – a female – was given to Genaba by a vassal of one Prince D.M. Achba, a keen and expert hunter and the ruler of the Zaadan region, who took the wild woman alive while out in the woods."

Genaba wasted no time in building a secure enclosure, one in which the creature, soon named Zana, could be housed. Initially, there were understandable concerns that Zana might prove to be hostile and downright murderous, hence the reason why she was kept confined. For a while, at least, the actions of Genaba were seen as making a great deal of sense: Zana was definitively unstable, lived in a hole she dug in the enclosure, and ate like a wild animal. Over the course of a couple of years, however, things began to change. Eventually, the people of Tkhana came to accept that Zana was no longer the threat they had feared she might originally have been, and as a result, she was given a significant amount of freedom to wander around the village and interact with the people of the area. Zana was, by all accounts, a quick learner and quite intelligent: she helped around the village, hauling sacks of grain and preparing firewood, and seemingly enjoying her daily tasks, too.

It’s clear from the descriptions made that Zana was no normal woman: her immense body was covered in dark hair, she shunned clothing – even in the freezing temperatures of the Caucasus Mountains – and she could not speak a word. Of her physical appearance, Igor Bourtsev said: "Her face was terrifying; broad, with high cheekbones, flat nose, turned out nostrils, muzzle like jaws, wide mouth with large teeth, low forehead and eyes of a reddish tinge. But the most frightening feature was her expression which was purely animal, not human. Sometimes, she would give a spontaneous laugh, baring those big white teeth of hers. The latter were so strong that she easily cracked the hardest walnuts." Despite repeated attempts to try and have Zana learn to speak the local Russian dialect, it came to nothing: mumble and squeal was just about all that Zana could manage, depending on her mood and demeanor. She was, however, a creature obsessed with cleanliness, never missing a day of bathing in the cold waters of a local spring. Zana had another obsession, too: with rocks. She enjoyed chipping away at them and placing them into various designs and piles, as if doing so held some form of significance for her.

The most controversial claim made about Zana is that she gave birth to no less than five children. The fathers, however, were reportedly not male Almasty, but the men of Tkhana. Brad Steiger has made a valuable observation on this claim: "If true, the implications of Zana’s having bred with men of the village are really quite staggering. If the wild woman truly did conceive with human males, then she was not an ape."  Related to this aspect of the story is the rumor that four of the children died, while the solitary survivor fled for the vast mountains from which its mother reportedly originated. Zana supposedly lived until the 1880s, when she passed away, and her life was celebrated by the people of Tkhana, who had come to embrace her as one of their very own. Of course, it’s a fascinating and undeniably engaging story, but how much of it is true and how much is folklore-driven distortion?

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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