Russia’s Almastys: Mystery Solved?

AlmastyZana01Russia’s Almasty or Almas sightings ignite frequent cryptozoological reports even to this day. Are they Bigfoots or monsters? They are mysterious creatures, for sure, so CryptoVille decided to look deeper into this mystery and see if there isn’t some other explanation.

I’ve written about Almastys before, in particular the sad story about Zana who was held captive for many years in Russia. She had four children by at least two human fathers and each of the four were raised by human families growing into adulthood like any other human being.

Why is that significant? Because if Zana was a Bigfoot or some other type of animal, she would not have been able to bear human children. It would have been genetically impossible. Homo sapiens (us) are the only ones able to do that, at least nowadays. This situation provides us with a tantalizing clue – could Zana have been on the Homo family tree by another name? Thanks to CryptoVille reader “Ray” for tipping me off to this connection. Zana may have been an earlier form of human.

AlmastyErgaster01DNA Results

Dr. Bryan Sykes performed DNA tests on the remains of Zana’s children. It showed that she must have been 100% Sub Saharan African. He further theorized that she may have been brought from Africa as a slave until the Russians took over that area and ended slavery.  It’s a nice theory except for one thing: Zana behaved more like an animal than a human. (Image left from New York Museum of Natural History, H. ergaster.)

A CryptoVille reader named “Y” pointed out to me that she seems to have behaved more like a hunter-gatherer. Those humans never settled down, never developed a “society” like we think of it today, never really developed language. Zana was described as not wanting to wear clothes, staying outdoors in all types of weather, preferring it to shelter. She swam in the icy cold river nearby. That would kill most humans, that is, Homo sapiens.

So what else could she have been?  Ray suggested I look into Homo ergaster.

AlmastyErgaster02What is Homo ergaster?

Homo ergaster lived between 1.9 and 1.4 million years ago, or possibly up until 780,000 years ago (there is some debate in the scientific community). (Image right from a BBC production: H. ergaster.)

Location: It lived in East and South Africa (sub Saharan) in forested areas, flooded grasslands, and open woodlands.

Appearance: Originally scientists estimated the males reached 180 cm tall (5.9 feet) and weighed around 66 kg (145 lbs) while the females reached 160 cm tall (5.2 feet) and weighed around 56 kg (123 lbs). But as more fossils have been found, those estimates changed. It seems that Homo ergaster  heights and weights varied considerably. The remains of an 11 year old child were found that measured 5 feet 3 inches tall. Science was able to estimate that if he had lived, he’d have reached a height of 6 feet 1 inch. Some adult female remains were found that measured 4 feet 9 inches tall. So the variation seems to be as strong as it is in today’s Homo sapiens, that is, us.

H. ergaster is the first hominid that looked like a modern human. The differences between males and females were clearly visible (sexual dimorphism), and the hind limbs (legs) were longer in relation to the length of the forelimbs (arms).  The pelvis was narrowing and the rib cage expanded into a more barrel shape which we still have today. All these adaptations made it easier for H. ergaster to walk and run – the body became better balanced.

AlmastyErgaster-mauricio-antonScientists believe H. ergaster’s body was smooth and relatively hairless. As they began to migrate in their search for high protein food to feed their growing brains and muscles, they would sweat more. Science tells us that sweating occurs more efficiently through naked skin. These were hunter-gatherer people often on the run chasing prey or running from predators. Efficient sweating is critical to survival. If they didn’t, they would collapse with heat stroke very fast. (Image above left by Mauricio Anton.)

Communication: Their fossils show that their vertebral canals weren’t large enough to contain all the nerve power that is required for speech. Speech requires a huge amount of processing power between the head and lungs to control breathing while speaking. So scientists feel they probably communicated through hand gestures and a variety of oral sounds, grunts and things. We need to remember, also, that their brains were smaller than ours so their intellect wasn’t on a par with ours today. Still they were a wonderful improvement on the hominids that went before.

Want to Know More?

I’ll share the links I studied at the end of this article if you’d like to read more paleontological articles about these creatures. My point in this post is to compare them to Zana. So let’s get back to Zana.

Zana01What about Zana?

How was Zana described by the people who remembered her?

In an essay by Rob Crowe, he describes her as, “[having] features of both Mongoloid and Negroid extraction, and her whole body was very tall with dark or gray skin, and reddish hair that covered her body like a mass of felt, while on the head it was described as being tousled and a thick shiny black. The thick reddish-black hair then ran down the middle of her back like an animal mane.

She was said to be six and a half feet tall, and had huge red eyes. Zana was also broad and had huge buttocks and pendulous breasts,  and was quite muscular and could splay her toes wide. Her hideously broad face with high cheek bones and ape-like nostrils turned forward was pure animal though. The muzzle-like jaws had strong sharp teeth … strong enough to crack bones or nuts with. Also, she was quite athletic, Zana could outrun the swiftest horses, or swim the waters of the swiftest river in flood stage at high tide, and do it all the year around. The nearby wild Mouki River was apparently an easy swim with her powerful arms and legs.”

That sounds like she may have been a bit hairier than the H. ergasters who migrated out of Africa, however in the subsequent centuries their bodies could have reverted to a hairier pelt in reaction to the colder climate they were living in. I should point out, science acknowledges that H. ergaster migrated to Dmanisi in Soviet Georgia. Guess where that is — in the Caucasus Mountains of Soviet Georgia where Zana was captured and held.

Like H. ergaster, Zana was unable to speak. She grunted and made noises, but never spoke words or a language. She was also large for a female, but remember there was a lot of variation among H. ergasters in size and weight, so I don’t see that as an obstacle to her being a surviving H. ergaster.

ZanaKhwitKhwit  

Zana’s son Khwit’s skull was examined by six anthropologists. They all mentioned  “a mix of ‘primitive’ and ‘progressive’ (modern) features in the skull.”

The skulls of H.ergaster are smaller, their brain size smaller than ours. The anthropologists may have been seeing a mix of ergaster traits versus sapiens traits mixed in his skull.

Bottom Line

After all my reading and research and hearing the stories about Almas/Almasty and Zana in particular, I think it’s more than likely she was a survivor of a group of H. ergasters that settled in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia.

It was mentioned in some articles that science is beginning to realize that groups of different hominids seemed to have lived at the same time. In other words, Homo ergaster didn’t die out completely while Homo erectus was getting its start in the world, and so on. So the fact that there could have been (and may still be) groups of Homo ergaster living in the desolate mountains of Georgia while we’re walking the planet isn’t that hard to believe.

One thing I do feel strongly about, though. If H. ergasters are still there roaming the Caucasus Mountains, they must be treated with dignity and respect. What was done to Zana was disgusting and an outright crime. May that never happen again!

So what do you think about all this?

 

References:

www.australianmuseum.net.au/Homo-ergaster

www.efossils.org/species/homo-ergaster

www.bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life/human/human_evolution/leaving_home1.shtml

www.humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils/species/homo-erectus

www.amnh.org/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/human-origins/the-history-of-human-evolution/turkana-boy/homo-ergaster-and-early-relatives

www.sciencedaily.com/articles/h/homo_ergaster.htm

www.anthro.palomar.edu/homo/homo_2.htm

5 comments

  1. Very good article! The Almas have interested me for many years and I believe that they are the most likely hominid type cryptid to be discovered. I feel that there is a possibility that Bigfoot, Yarin, Yowie, (etc) exist, but I think that the Almasty probably do exist.

  2. Very interesting. A logical line of thinking which seems to plausibly provide an answer for the origins of a remnant population in the mountains. Have just watched the Almasty episode with Dr Sykes, which raised many points for discussion.

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