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

Updated on May 27, 2017

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

By employing clear vision to disentangle and dissect the titillating stories about Zana. A supposedly female Bigfoot captured near the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. Sometime in the 1850s. You will glimpse a tall curvaceous reddish-dark brown Sub-Saharan woman. Perhaps unable to speak because of an impaired vocal system. Who possibly was a descendant of the Dinka, Watusi, or Himba (Herero) tribal nations of today. It is alleged she had reddish tinged skin and hair. So perhaps Zana was a Himba.

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Himba mother and child
Himba mother and child | Source

The Himba Desert Dwellers

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. Derived from a cream called otjize. Which they apply to their hair and bodies on a daily basis.

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The Cream That's Called Otjize

The cream consists of clay, butter, and red ochre (pounded from hematite). It is believed the substance is used as protection against the sun and insects. However, the women indicate it’s used for beautification purposes. While the elders say it is used to distinguish the males from the females.

Additionally, the cream reflects the women’s reverence for the red color of Mother Earth and for the red coloring of blood. The paste also inhibits the growth of hair on their bodies. And the otjize may have played a major role in Zana’s life as well.

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A Depiction of Zana
A Depiction of Zana

The Depictions of Zana

Studying the depictions of Zana plastered in newspapers, magazines, and over the Internet. You will immediately note gross distortions of her facial features. These sketches are interpretive and wildly imaginative at best. As her burial site has yet to be found and the remains exhumed. Therefore, a three-dimensional computer image based on her skull is unavailable. Said image would reflect an accurate and factual portrait of her.

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Were the Tkhina Villagers Biased Towards Zana?

Were the Tkhina villagers’ descriptions of Zana biased, magnified, and overstated? For instance, they implied she had a reddish hairy body. But amazingly her offspring were not hairy. Making the likelihood of Zana’s excessive hairiness questionable. Could the villagers have been referring to her reddish tinged skin? Possibly dyed by the red ochre in the otjize?

Likewise the villagers claimed, “… The thick reddish-black hair ran down the middle of her back like an animal mane3 …” Is it possible they may have been referring to Zana’s reddish-black braids. That may have hung down her back.

JohnThomas Didymus a contributing writer on the INQUISITOR website concurs. That the villagers may have been embellishing their accounts of Zana’s physical description. He says, “... details of her physical features and appearance, appeared to have been exaggerated4. ..."

Also, Jason Calovito , an author, historical researcher, and skeptic that writes on a range of topics. Stated in an online article about Zana, “…Russians in the 1800s and 1900s were generally white supremacists and considered Blacks subhuman.5…”

Additionally, an online article written by idoubtit asserts, “…Her exoticness is likely what prompted the stories that morphed into her being non-human6…”

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Did the Researchers Misconstrue What was Said?

Or did the Russian zoologist Alexander Mashkovtsev and Boris Porshnev, a Soviet historian and doctor of social science, while collecting the elderly Tkhina eyewitness accounts of Zana, and what others were told about her in 1962. Possibly misconstrued what was conveyed to them. Because of the diverse dialects in that area?

Obviously, the close-knit Tkhina villagers in Abkhazia viewed Zana’s personhood as one of an otherness, foreignness, and strangeness. Given her reddish-dark brown skin, high cheekbones, flared nostrils, buxomness, curvaceousness, large teeth, and six foot stature. That was in stark contrast to the Armenian-Slavic homogeneity.

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Zana’s So-Called Wild Behavior

There are numerous accounts regarding Zana’s wild behavior. However, when reflecting on her violent conduct, i.e. the kicking, biting, and growling (she may have been a mute). Clearly, she was resisting her capture and defending herself against harm.

After her capture 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 the Abkhazian region. Where she was housed within an outside stone enclosure. The villagers poked at her with sticks and hit her with rocks. Thus, she responded to her mistreatment with rage.

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The African Presence in Abkhazia

You may not be aware that Africans were present in Abkhazia long before the establishment of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire in 1453. Cheikh Anta Diop, a historian, anthropologist, and physicist, in his book, CIVILIZATION OR BARBARISM, An Authentic Anthropology, mentions on page 98 the explanation of Herodotus for the presence of the Colchians. A black Egyptian colony settled on the banks of the Phasis River in Asia Minor. Evidently, an Egyptian pharaoh was leading a military campaign across Asia Minor and left behind a colony of troops in Abkhazia.

Slava Tynes, a journalist for THE AFRO-AMERICAN, noted Herodotus visited Colchis in the fifth century B.C. in an article on the Soviet Union. And the Greek historian remarked, “… Egyptians believe that this people are descended from Sesostris’s troops. I have drawn some conclusions on the basis of some marks: First they are dark and have curly hair.7"

An Afro-Abkhazian family
An Afro-Abkhazian family

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

Over time the slaves settled in Adzyubzha (the Ochamchira region of the Abkhazia). And by the 19th century, the descendants of the slaves were well versed in the Abkhazian language and dressed in the manner of the Abkhazians.

It is claimed the communists either killed or forced the descendants of the slaves out of Adzybzha. As well as other Afro-Abkhazian enclaves in the 1930s. Interestingly, Labadze made the following reference to Zana, …”Nicknamed “Zana,” this woman, who died of old age in 1890, most likely was a descendant of “Afro-Abkhazians.”

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Abkhazia Today

Summary

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 her primitive biological origins were debunked.

Moreover, 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.

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

Consequently, her spirit was broken over time. Firstly, she was imprisoned inside a hole in the ground for two years. Secondly, she was plied with alcohol perhaps with threats of violence. Or maybe she developed a taste for wine and gladly imbibed. In order to forget about her predicament. Then, while under the fog of drunkenness and slumber, she was sexually exploited by her owner and other males. Thirdly, she was ostracized by the community, friendless, and quite lonely.

Fourthly, Zana’s four surviving children were taken away from her. And reared by families in the village. It is reported she had six children and two of them expired. Allegedly the two expired babies died from hypothermia. Because Zana washed them in the cold river water after their birth. Was the river water the only source of water available to her to cleanse them? It certainly appears the villagers were aware of the infants' births. Why wasn’t warm water and assistance offered? What's more, given that Zana had a series of male slave owners. It is highly probable she had more than six children. The question begs what happened to her other children?

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Khwit, Zana's son
Khwit, Zana's son
Zana's granddaughter
Zana's granddaughter

Sadly, Zana’s story mirrors that of many people from all nationalities and locales. That are trapped inside the modern world of sex trafficking and slavery.

In closing, when you glance into the eyes of Zana’s son and granddaughter, they stare back at you unflinchingly and unbowed.

And if you gaze deeply into their eyes, you’ll see Zana.



References

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1. africageographic.com/blog/5-interesting-facts-about-the-himba, 5 interesting facts about the Himba, by Guest Blogger in Culture posted April 17, 2015

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

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

4. inquisitr.com, Zana: "Did DNA Tests Show 19th Century ‘Half Human, Half Ape’ Abkhazian Woman ‘100% Sub-Saharan African’?", By JohnThomas Didymus, April 4, 2015.

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

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

7. THE AFRO-AMERICAN, "When did Africans Get to the Soviet Union (Part 1)", By Slava Tynes, February 3, 1973.

© 2017 Irma Cowthern

Comments

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 5 weeks 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.

    • ponder profile image
      Author

      Irma Cowthern 5 weeks 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.

    • GalaxyRat profile image

      GalaxyRat 5 weeks ago from The Crazy Rat Lady's House

      Irma,

      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 image
      Author

      Irma Cowthern 5 weeks 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

      Noni Olabisi 3 weeks 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 image
      Author

      Irma Cowthern 3 weeks 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.

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