The Origins of Zana of Abkhazia

Just lately, Margaryan et al printed a paper titled The genomic origin of Zana of Abkhazia.

Margaryan was the lead writer on the 2020 paper, the Population genomics of the Viking world. I wrote about that within the article, 442 Ancient Viking Skeletons Hold DNA Surprises – Does Your Y or Mitochondrial DNA Match?

Why are folks within the origins of Zana? Who was Zana?


Zana was initially believed to have been a member of a bunch of Afro-Abkhazian individuals who lived within the Caucasus within the later 1800s.

Often known as the African Caucasians, the Abkhazians of African descent lived in and close to the settlement of Adzyubzha on the east coast of the Black Sea.

By Unknown writer –, Public Area,

This photograph of an Afro-Abkhazian household is from “Caucasus. Quantity I. The peoples of the Caucasus”, St. Petersburg., Kovalevsky P. I., 1914.

It’s unsure how this group of African folks got here to dwell on this area, however they appear to have arrived when the area was beneath the rule of the Ottoman Empire within the 1600s, probably as slaves to work the citrus plantations. In 1927, two Russian males visited the village and met aged Africans. The Russian males felt that an Ethiopian model of their arrival story was seemingly correct since there have been a number of parallels between the names of the villages in Ethiopia and the Afro-Abkhazian villages.

By the 1800s, they spoke solely the northwest Caucasian Abkhaz language.

The origins of Zana herself are cloaked in fantasy. One factor is for sure. Zana was exploited horribly.

How a lot of the story of Zana’s origins is correct, and the way a lot was concocted to justify her subsequent therapy is unknown.

The Story

Zana was reportedly dwelling wild and bare within the forest within the Caucasus area. These mountains had lengthy been rumored to carry creatures just like Bigfoot, known as Almasty in Russia.

The story goes {that a} touring noble service provider, probably Edgi Genaba, heard about an apewoman dwelling within the forest and paid the native males to seize this poor creature someday between 1850 and 1870. The locals compelled her right into a spike-lined pit.

The nobleman paid the lads, named his captive Zana, shackled her, took her house, and enclosed Zana in a cage the place she dug a gap through which to sleep. A barely completely different model of the story says that Zana was offered from man to man till Genaba purchased her.

Zana was apparently lined in thick pink hair, powerfully muscular and at 6 ft 6 inches in top, towering over the native residents. When given garments, she reportedly would shred them.

Genaba charged individuals who would come and gawk on the bare caged “apewoman” who couldn’t or didn’t communicate.

Zana didn’t attempt to escape and ultimately, she was granted some reprieve by “solely” being chained to a fence.

Finally, Zana was taught to do chores and in essence, turned a servant. She was additionally supplied with alcohol. The native males repeatedly raped Zana whereas she was drunk.

Zana reportedly had a complete of 6 youngsters by unknown native males, though solely 4 might be comparatively assured and two confirmed. Zana apparently took the primary two infants to a river to scrub them, however the youngsters died. After that, the native ladies took the next 4 youngsters away from Zana to guard them since she apparently didn’t perceive find out how to look after an toddler.

None of Zana’s youngsters had her thick hair. All of them spoke usually and had households. Footage stay of two of her youngsters, a daughter, Kodzhanar and a son, Khwit. You possibly can see images of Kodzhanar, Khwit and Khwit’s youngsters, here, in a complement to the paper.

Zana died after dwelling in captivity for about 20 years, having been taken benefit of, first by Genaba and ultimately, by the village males as nicely.

However Zana’s exploitation didn’t even finish there.

Dr. Bryan Sykes, as soon as a revered geneticist, in his later years, turned a Bigfoot hunter. After analyzing DNA proof from Zana’s granddaughter and kin, together with the stays of her son, Sykes instructed that Zana belonged to a “sub-species of recent people,” and known as her “half human and half ape,” based on a Daily Mail article published in April of 2015. Sykes printed a guide in 2015, whose title I refuse to print, through which he means that Zana’s ancestors exited Africa 100,000 years earlier than and he or she and her ancestors had, in essence, develop into a Caucuses Bigfoot – or Almasty within the native vernacular. Nonetheless, Sykes additionally states that Zana was 100% African, had genes from west Africa, but resembled no west African group of individuals. For those who’re scratching your head saying to your self that these issues are contradictory – you’d be proper.

Fortunately, Margaryan has now printed a respectful academic paper about Zana.

The genomic origin of Zana of Abkhazia

Margaryan paper summary:

Enigmatic phenomena have sparked the creativeness of individuals across the globe into creating folkloric creatures. One prime instance is Zana of Abkhazia (South Caucasus), a well-documented Nineteenth-century feminine who was captured dwelling wild within the forest. Zana’s look was sufficiently uncommon, that she was referred to by locals as an Almasty—the analog of Bigfoot within the Caucasus. Though the precise location of Zana’s burial website was unknown, the grave of her son, Khwit, was recognized in 1971. The genomes of Khwit and the alleged Zana skeleton had been sequenced to a median depth of ca. 3× utilizing historical DNA methods. The similar mtDNA and parent-offspring relationship between the 2 indicated that the unknown lady was certainly Zana. Inhabitants genomic analyses demonstrated that Zana’s rapid genetic ancestry can seemingly be traced to present-day East-African populations. We speculate that Zana may need had a genetic dysfunction corresponding to congenital generalized hypertrichosis which might partially clarify her unusual habits, lack of speech, and lengthy physique hair. Our findings elucidate Zana’s unlucky story and supply a transparent instance of how prejudices of the time led to notions of cryptic hominids which might be nonetheless held and transmitted by some as we speak.


Hypertrichosis, often known as “werewolf syndrome” is a particularly uncommon situation through which an irregular quantity of hair grows on the physique. Whereas this situation can develop later in life, it can be congenital, or current at beginning.

In some instances, hair grows everywhere in the physique, however in others, solely grows in some locations.

Whereas Zana’s hair progress suggests hypertrichosis, Zana could have had different challenges as nicely on condition that she was nonverbal.

In medieval occasions, individuals who suffered from hypertrichosis usually lived in courts and functioned as entertainers. Within the 19th and 20th centuries, you possibly can discover them as performers in circuses and sideshows.

Congenital hypertrichosis, current from beginning, might be inherited.

Petrus Gonsalvus, born in 1537 and known as “the person of the woods” spent his life in royal courts in Italy and France. He had seven youngsters, 4 of whom apparently inherited the mutation for this situation from Petrus.

Petrus and his youngsters with extreme hair, two of whom are proven above, weren’t thought-about absolutely human, though their court docket life allowed them to be nicely documented.

Petrus married Girl Catherine and their story could have been no less than part of the inspiration for the fairy story, Beauty and the Beast, printed in 1740, 122 years after Petrus’s dying.

Zana’s Son, Khwit’s Y DNA

As a consequence of Zana’s circumstances, we don’t know who Khwit’s father was. Khwit and the daddy himself could haven’t identified both, given how Zana was handled by the native males who raped her. Moreover, Zana’s youngsters had been taken from her and he or she was non-verbal, so even when she did know, she couldn’t have instructed her youngsters.

Khwit’s Y DNA supplies tantalizing clues.

FamilyTreeDNA’s evaluation of Zana’s son, Khwit’s Y chromosome locations him within the R-Z2103 subclade of R1b related to the Yamnaya tradition, and extra particularly on department R-Y4364 which has its highest frequency within the Caucasus.

You possibly can see that the flags beside the subgroups above R-FTA50400 are all represented within the Caucasus area; Armenia, Russian Federation, Turkey, and the Palestinian Territory. Additionally they attain into the encircling areas: Italy, Poland, Greece, Germany, after which beneath Khwit’s department, we discover Scotland represented by subclade R-FTA49702. Khwit and the person from Scotland share 14 variants that department subclade R-FTA50400 from R-FGCLR459.

Scotland? Nicely, that’s surprising.

Wanting on the block tree, beneath, you possibly can see that whereas the 2 males are associated again in time, it’s distant and they’re separated by many personal variants.

How way back did the frequent ancestor of Khwit and the Scotsman dwell?

Goran Runfeldt, Head of Analysis and Growth at FamilyTreeDNA, indicated that an early estimate could be that the frequent ancestor of Khwit’s father and the tester from Scotland would have lived within the Caucasus about 2200 years in the past.

He said that extra Large Y-700 testing is underway and a extra definitive MRCA date might be able to be established.

Zana’s Mitochondrial DNA

In fact, Zana’s youngsters all carried her mitochondrial DNA. Her daughters handed Zana’s mitochondrial DNA on to their youngsters as nicely.

Luckily, Zana’s mitochondrial DNA helps reassemble the items of Zana’s historical past.

I reached out to Dr. Miguel Vilar, a member of the Million Mito crew member within the hope of unveiling extra of Zana’s puzzle. Dr. Villar is a molecular anthropologist at UMD and former lead scientist for the Genographic Venture.

Dr. Vilar supplied:

The DNA information and previous tales collectively paint a really unhappy image for the historic determine of Zana. The PCA plot of the autosomal DNA suggests she was genetically associated to the Dinka pastoralist people from South Sudan, a marginalized group identified to be above common in top and physique measurement. Additional, Zana’s mtDNA outcomes place her on a basal department of L2b1b, which geographically would align with an East Central African origin.

The mix of Zana’s top, physique measurement, hair, and (obvious) incapacity to talk definitely superior or no less than fostered the story of Zana not being human.

Sadly, these mixed options appeared to justify the non-human therapy of Zana by the native residents, notably the lads.

Modern DNA evaluation proves Zana was absolutely human with African origins. She was not admixed with non-African DNA. How she or her household got here to the Caucasus, or when, is unknown, nevertheless it seemingly has to do with the Ottoman Empire slave commerce that started within the 16th century. The legend of Zana has in all probability grown and adjusted with time and retelling.


Clearly, Zana’s unique scenario and later exploitation have been an moral quagmire.

The authors of the Zana paper maybe sum this up finest:

Following her seize within the forest, Zana was disadvantaged of her primary human rights, and handled as a slave: she was saved in captivity, seemingly compelled to have sexual relations with native males, and labored in compelled labor circumstances. After she handed away, the accounts on her legendary determine attracted a number of scientists to unearth her story and her son’s bones had been exhumed. Our research intends each to disclose the true human nature of Zana and grant her and her descendants’ stays the dignity they deserve.

Zana’s story isn’t over. Further testing and evaluation are being carried out. Primarily based on these findings, if any, we might be able to add one other chapter to Zana’s story.

Zana, like everybody else, deserves the reality, even when unraveled and instructed posthumously. We are able to’t proper the historic wrongs as we speak, however no less than we will appropriate the file.



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