In the summer of 1850 hunters in the Caucasus encountered a strange creature running naked and six and a half feet tall. They chased it down and captured it, returning it to T’khina. At first, she was violent, but she soon became used to domestic life. She was called Zana and was able to do simple household chores. She became a servant in an aristocratic household and lived until 1890.

Professor Brian Sykes, a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, has studied Zana and says that her DNA indicates that she belonged to a human subspecies and was not a modern human. He found that, while her genetic background is African, she is not related to any group now present in modern Africa.

Zana was sexually active and had children with a local man called Edgi Genaba. They were apparently normal modern humans, and their descendants still live in the region.

Four of the children, two boys and two girls, survived and were given away by their father to local families. The boys were Dzhanda and Khwit Genaba and their sisters Kodzhanar and Gamasa.

Kvit’s skull has been preserved, and was declared by Dr. Grover Kranz in 1993 to be entirely modern. However, Russian anthropologist M. A. Kolodieva says that the skull is more like that of Neolithic fossils found in the area.

Dr. Sykes had conducted DNA tests on a tooth from Kvit’s skull and saliva from six of her descendants, and is planning to publish his results in the scientific literature. They represent further study since the publication of his book The Nature of the Beast where he asserts that Zana’s ancestors probably entered the Caucasus around a hundred thousand years ago and came from Africa.

Creatures similar to Zana have been seen in the region for many years, where they are known as Almas. Hans Schiltberger recorded sightings of the in 1420 as he was being taken to Mongolia as a prisoner. In 1963 Russian anthropologist Ivan Ivlov observed a group of Almas, apparently a family, while working in Mongolia. He discovered that they were often seen by local people.

In his journal Schiltberger described his sighting: " “In the mountains themselves live a wild people, who have nothing in common with other human beings, a pelt covers the entire body of these creatures. Only the hands and face are free of hair. They run around in the hills like animals and eat foliage and grass what ever else they can find."

The famed Russian author Ivan Turgenev told French author Guy deMaupassant the story of encountering an Alma in the Caucasus. DeMaupassant recorded this account of what Turgenev told him: "He was hunting in a Russian forest. He was wandering the whole day and in the evening he went out to a bank of a quiet river. The river was flowing in the shadow of trees, the water there was crystal pure and cold. Turgenev was gripped with a desire to swim in that water. He took his clothes off and jumped in the river. He was a tall, strong, well-built man, and he was a very good swimmer too. He was enjoying the current of the river with his body and soul. Grass and aquatic plants were caressing him.

"Suddenly, someone’s hand touched his shoulder. He looked around quickly and saw a strange creature. The creature was gazing at him with great curiosity. It looked like something in between a woman and a monkey. The creature had a wrinkled face of a monkey. Messy red hair was framing the face and flowing behind the back. Turgenev was flabbergasted. Horror chilled him to the bone. He started swimming to a bank of the river, not even trying to understand what he just saw. However, the creature was swimming beside him, touching his neck and back and feet. Finally, the young man reached the ground and ran as fast as he could. He did not care about either his clothes or rifle. He forgot about everything and was guided only by the immense uncontrollable wish to stay alive.

"The monster was following him. It was running very fast too, uttering some squealing sounds. The young man could hardly catch his breath. He was about to fall down on the ground, but he suddenly saw a boy with a whip in his hands. The boy started whipping the creature and it ran away, yelling with pain. The courage of the little shepherd is explained with the fact that it was not the first time that he saw it. Later, someone of local residents told Turgenev that the monster was a crazy woman that was living alone in the forest and completely insane. Yet, it was known in the 19th century that people do not get covered with thick hair all over their bodies, even if they lived alone in the woods.”

The most interesting fact mentioned in this extraordinary story, which is supported by many others, is that the creature had red hair. In 2001, Oxford researcher Rosalind Harding said "it is possible that red hair comes from the Neanderthals" after discovering that the ginger gene that produces it apparently originated in the species.

So, are the Almas a mix of Neanderthals and modern humans that is somehow different from the rest of us or, as Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has suggested, a survival of the early hominid homo erectus.

If Dr. Sykes results hold up, it seems possible that the origin of the legend of the Yeti and Bigfoot has at last been identified. If so, then sightings, which continue in the Caucasus, would suggest that some of these creatures are still living free in the deep forests of Russia.

The image is a drawing of an Alma from the Tibetian Materia Medica.