A new documentary series that will air on Channel 4 in the UK on Sunday evening, titled Bigfoot Files, will follow a global quest to unlock what the network calls the real story behind the Bigfoot legend.
I'm glad that I read up on the documentary, really just out of curiosity, because I learned that, within it will be discussions of what I think is a worth-sharing report by British geneticist, Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford (he recently found the DNA key that could answer the mystery of the ‘Yeti’).
In the film, Sykes claims that he's solved the mystery of Russia’s very own Bigfoot, which they've named "Zana" - a so-called "wild woman" or "Almasty" who Russians believe was captured in the late 19th century in southern Russia.
After carrying out DNA tests on saliva samples taken from descendants of "Zana," Professor Sykes’ research has determined that Zana's ancestry was "100% Sub-Saharan African" and that she was most likely a slave brought to the region by the then ruling Ottomans.
At least, that's what Sykes and his DNA research are claiming.
The existence of "Zana" is foreign to me; this is the first time I'm hearing about her, and so Sykes' claims are news to me as well.
Some further research revealed that "Zana" is believed to have been "captured" in a remote part of Russia, in the 1870s, and was then held in captivity for some two decades by a local landowner.
As for how she arrived in the region, here's Sykes' explanation: “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.”
Apparently, while slavery was ended by the Russians when they took over the region in the late 1850s, some Africans remained behind, and the suggestion is that Zana was one of them, who ended up living in anonymity in the forest, which is where she would eventually be seen, creating the legend.
Channel 4 adds that she is even believed to have mothered four children with different 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.
Sykes adds that there's a possibility that "Zana" could be a remnant of an earlier migration out of Africa, perhaps tens of thousands, of years ago.
This is all a theory at this stage of his research, and the Professor says that he plans to continue to study all the evidence much further before reaching his final conclusions.
But "Zana’s" story will be featured in Bigfoot Files, which airs on Channel 4 this Sunday, November 3rd at 8pm.
It'll likely make its way online sometime after, so the rest of the world can watch it.
This is all foreign to me, so I'll leave the informed commentary to those of you who know a lot more about this than I do. I frankly don't even know what to think of/feel about any of it, but it's triggered an interest in me, so I'll be researching further.
It'll be great to get some feedback from our UK readers after it airs.
Feel free to chime in.