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Not a Missing Link, Not a Neanderthal or Yeti, But A Woman Nicknamed Zana

Updated on January 9, 2018

When you employ clear vision, a mindset free of bias, to disentangle and dissect the titillating stories about Zana. A supposedly female Bigfoot captured near the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains in the 1850s.

You'll glimpse a tall, buxom, and curvaceous reddish-dark brown Sub-Saharan female. With almond-shaped eyes, a broad nose, flared nostrils, large teeth, ample lips, high cheekbones, and reddish tinged black braids. Probably a descendant of the Himba tribal nation. Who may have been speech-impaired.

And to your shock, you'll soon realize she was snared into a lifelong nightmare.

Zana's presence in the Ochamchira region of Abkhazia remains a mystery. Was she a slave? If so, how did she manage to escape? Or did she wander away from the safety of an Afro-Abkhazian settlement?

© Can Stock Photo Inc/dpreezg
© Can Stock Photo Inc/dpreezg

Zana was Probably a Himba

The Himbas aka Ovahimbas arrived in Kaokoland from Angola in the 1600s. Nowadays the statuesque Himba desert dwellers live in the Kuene region (formerly Kaokoland) of Namibia and herd cattle.

Though the modern world and tourists are beating a path to their door. The Himba women cling fiercely to their traditional hairstyles and traditional attire.

As they are renown for their reddish plaits and reddish tinged-dark brown skin. Their reddish hue is derived from a cream called otjize. Which they apply to their hair and bodies on a daily basis.

Examples of Ochre
Examples of Ochre | Source

Zana Probably Used Otjize

The otjize consists of clay, butter, and red ochre pounded from hematite. Generally speaking, the substance acts as a protective shield against the sun and insects. On the other hand, the women indicate it’s administered for beautification purposes. While the elders declare it's utilized to distinguish the males from the females.

Moreover, the cream reflects the women’s reverence for the red color of the soil and the rosiness of blood. The paste also inhibits the growth of hair on their bodies. And the otjize more than likely played a major role in Zana’s life as well.

An artist depiction of Zana
An artist depiction of Zana

A Forensic Facial Reconstruction of Zana's Skull is Non-Existent

When you study the depictions of Zana's physical appearance plastered in newspapers, magazines, and over the Internet. You will immediately note gross distortions of her facial features. These sketches are interpretive, wildly imaginative, and speculative at best.

A forensic facial reconstruction based on her skull would resolve the matter. However, her burial site has yet to be found and the remains exhumed.

A scene from a Russian village.
A scene from a Russian village. | Source

Zana Viewed as an Otherness by the Tkhina Villagers

The Tkhina villagers viewed Zana's personhood as one of an otherness. And one of alien in stark contrast to their Armenian-Slavic homogeneity.

Jason Calovito contends in the online article, "Is a Remnant Group of Pre-Modern Humans Living in Abkhazia? One Geneticist Thinks So," --- that "…Russians in the 1800s and 1900s were generally white supremacists and considered Blacks subhuman 4 ..."

Another online article about Zana written by idoubtit asserts, “…Her exoticness is likely what prompted the stories that morphed into her being non-human5..."

Consequently, the villagers perpetuated countless falsehoods about her. For example, in reference to her braids the villagers claimed, “… The thick reddish-black hair ran down the middle of her back like an animal mane3 …” The narrative certainly evokes a sense of non-humanness and oddity.

Zana’s So-Called Wild Behavior

Also, there are numerous accounts from villagers regarding Zana’s wild behavior, i.e. kicking, biting, and growling. When the stories are closely examined. It is apparent she was resisting confinement and defending herself.

After her kidnapping in the 1850s, she had a succession of owners. The last one was Edgi Genaba a nobleman. Who transported her in chains to his Tkhina estate in Abkhazia. Where she was housed within an outside stone enclosure. The villagers poked at her with sticks and hit her with rocks. Consequently, she responded to the mistreatment with the only weapon available - her body.

Boris Porshnev
Boris Porshnev

Alexander Mashkovtsev and Boris Porshnev's Eagerness to Discover a Relic Hominoid Contributed to the Sordid Tales About Zana Too

Alexander Mashkovtsev, a Russian zoologist, hypothesized Zana was a relic hominoid or Bigfoot/Sasquatch (Abnauayu in Russia). And Boris Porshnev, a Russian historian and doctor of social sciences, was intrigued with the stories about her.

The scholars joined forces and in the early 1960s collected elderly Tkhina eyewitness accounts of Zana. In addition to what others were told about her.

The scientists may have misinterpreted what was conveyed to them. Because of their unfamiliarity with the many dialects in Abkhazia. Also, in their rush and eagerness to identify her as a relic hominoid, they discounted data that indicated otherwise.

The Afro-Abkhazian Community: 1750s - 1930s

An online article, "The Tale of Afro-Abkhazians," attributed to Mikheil Labadze a historian. Indicates the Abkhazian Count Sharvashidze purchased African slaves from Arab traders during the second half of the 17th century.

Over time the slaves settled in Adzyubzha (the Ochamchira region of Abkhazia). By the 19th century, the descendants of the slaves were well versed in the Abkhazian language. They also dressed in the same manner of the Abkhazians.

Labadze alleges the communists either killed or forced the descendants of the slaves out of Adzybzha. As well as other Afro-Abkhazian enclaves in the 1930s.

Furthermore, Labadze provides a chilling reference to Zana in the article, "...Nicknamed “Zana,” this woman, who died of old age in 1890, most likely was a descendant of “Afro-Abkhazians.”

Photo of Afro-Abkhazian family from "Caucasus. Volume I. The peoples of the Caucasus", St. Petersburg., Kovalevsky P. I., 1914
Photo of Afro-Abkhazian family from "Caucasus. Volume I. The peoples of the Caucasus", St. Petersburg., Kovalevsky P. I., 1914 | Source

Zana was 100% Sub-Saharan African

In the early 1990s, Dr. Grover Krantz, an anthropologist and cryptozoologist, examined the skull of Zana’s son, Khwit. The results from his examination revealed the skull belonged to a human being. Hence the claims about Zana's primitive biological origins were debunked.

Sometime in 2013, Bryan Sykes, a cryptozoologist and a former professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, conducted a DNA test on the saliva from Zana’s descendants residing in Abkhazia. The results from the testing confirmed she was 100% Sub-Saharan African.


Zana's Spirit Became Broken

After distilling Zana’s story, one perceives a woman that was viewed as subhuman. In the political and social framework of a rural and isolated environment. Where the population may not have encountered a person of African descent until her arrival.

Zana was imprisoned inside a hole in the ground for two years in Tkhina. Then she was forced to drink alcohol. And beaten if she refused. It is intimated Zana developed a taste for wine and gladly imbibed.

In all likelihood the alcohol provided a temporary escape for her. While under the fog of drunkenness and deep slumber, she was sexually exploited by the male villagers.

Consequently, her youth faded into old age and she expired in Abkhazia in 1890, friendless and scorned.

In spite of the tales surrounding Zana's capture which was in fact an abduction, her presence in the Ochamira region remains a mystery. As well as whether her family and community attempted to locate her. Or if they were aware of what happened to her, but powerless to intervene.

Khwit, Zana's son
Khwit, Zana's son
Zana's granddaugher
Zana's granddaugher

What Happened to Zana's Children Born Prior to Her Life in Abkhazia?

It is reported Zana had six children in Abkhazia. But two of them expired. The four surviving children were taken and reared by the villagers. Which was another indignity she endured.

It is alleged the two infants died from hypothermia. Supposedly Zana washed them in the river after their births. Which raises a number of questions.

Was the cold river water the only option available to her? And why wasn’t assistance provided to her with the delivery of the infants?

~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ . ~ .

It certainly appears the villagers' intolerance played a role in the deaths of the two infants.

Evidently, their guilt and shame forced them to assist Zana. With the subsequent births of the other children.

What's more, it is highly probable Zana had more than six children. Given she was a young woman and sold several times. The question begs what happened to Zana's other children. That were born prior to her life in Abkhazia?

Truth Crushed to Earth Rises

Sadly, Zana’s story although more than 150 years old, mirrors that of many people. Who are trapped in the modern world of sex trafficking and slavery. However, truth crushed to earth rises.

And what really happened to Zana will be revealed one day. Until then, the eyes of her descendants remain fearless and unbowed. And if you gaze deeply into them, you’ll see her.

Do You Think Some Villagers Knew Zana Was Unlawfully Enslaved. But Kept Silent for Fear of Reprisals?

See results


1., 5 interesting facts about the Himba, by Guest Blogger in Culture posted April 17, 2015

2., 15 Incredible Photos of a Tribe You've Probably Have Never Heard Of, Susan Portnoy, Photographer.

3., The Zana Affair, By Ray Crowe, October 31, 2010.

4., "Is a remnant Group of Pre-Modern Humans Living in Abkhazia? One Geneticist Thinks So," By Jason Calovito, 7/19/2015.

5., "the story of ‘Zana,’ wild woman, has been solved through DNA Analysis (UPDATE)," By idoubtit, April 4, 2015.

© 2017 Irma Cowthern


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    • ponder profile imageAUTHOR

      Irma Cowthern 

      17 months ago from Los Angeles,CA

      Hello Noni,

      So many people have lived through so much pain. I hope all of their stories will be told. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

    • profile image

      Noni Olabisi 

      17 months ago

      Wow!!!!! Your an excellent writer and researcher. I never heard of this rich heartfelt story before , however, it reminds me of the many horror and , abomination stories during the Transatlantic Slave Trade . Least , let us not forget Sarah Baartman. .............. Thank You

    • ponder profile imageAUTHOR

      Irma Cowthern 

      17 months ago from Los Angeles,CA

      Hello GalaxyRat,

      Information regarding Zana's early life is nonexistent - Which makes it rather difficult to determine if she was an abused child. Your take on Zana could be plausible.

    • profile image


      17 months ago


      I liked the Hub, and it was very interesting. It was wrong of them to mistreat her. All humans deserve affection, and not mistreatment... thus, some people who don't receive it may be violent. Maybe Zana was mistreated young as well as at the time she was hit with rocks and stuff?

    • ponder profile imageAUTHOR

      Irma Cowthern 

      17 months ago from Los Angeles,CA

      Hello Jodah,

      I concur that it was a tragedy...When I read the accounts about Zana a couple of years ago. There was something about them that just didn't ring true to me. I hope the Hub will move people to critically analyze sensationalized stories.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      17 months ago from Queensland Australia

      It was very interesting, though sad, to read about Zana. It is a terrible tragedy how people treat those a little different from themselves. Very well written.


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