The Soviet Colonel had never seen anything like it in his life. Inside the freezing shed he was confronted by the sight of a heavily hair-covered naked man whose physical appearance was a throw back to a bygone age. The man had been captured by Soviet troops who suspected he might be a German spy and had brought the poor unfortunate in for interrogation.
Their Colonel was a far more enlightened man and was able to tell immediately that he was looking at what appeared to be a relation of the Neandertal species. The tall man was somewhat hairier than usual and had a low slanting brow and what appeared to be powerful jaws. Betraying no sign of comprehension about the proceedings going on around him, the Neandertaloid sat there sweating profusely while those around him cursed the freezing cold. As other duties now called upon the Colonel he had to take leave of what to him was a subhuman. Years later he was to find no trace of the event nor was he able to establish the ultimate fate of the stranger from the mists of time.
This story sounds like a tale from the pen of a deluded science fiction writer, but it is the solemn documented testimony of Lt. Colonel Vazhgen S. Karapetian who encountered the human oddity (above) near Buinaksk, Daghestan, a former autonomous Soviet republic. Karapetian’s account makes for striking reading as does the story of Zana as told to Professor Boris Porshne, the distinguished chronicler and investigator of bipedal hairy hominids in what is now the former Soviet Union.
In the 1880s a strange woman – later given the name Zana or Zanya – with features of both mongoloid and negroid extraction was captured in the western Caucausus region of Abkhazia. Here hominoids are known as Abnauayu. Her exotic features were enough to describe her as unusual, but it was her coat of reddish-black hair, which covered her from head to foot and her physically imposing body which made her even more extraordinary. She was powerful enough to actually outrun horses and was able to easily swim swift-flowing rivers.
In captivity Zana was passed on to a succession of owners commencing with Prince D.M. Achba, titular head of the Zaadan region, and then ultimately into the hands of a nobleman, Edgi Genaba, from Tkhina on the Mokva River. The bizarre hominoid was well-treated by her master who taught her simple tasks to perform around the farm. However, she was less well-treated by the immoral men of the neighbouring area who took advantage of Zana’s ignorance and fathered several children. These progeny were fairly normal except all were dark and physically powerful. One son had the power to lift a man on a chair off the ground by means of his powerful jaws. Unlike their mother, Zana’s children turned out to be quite talented with one son an accomplished pianist.
Porshnev and his successors Dimitri Bayanov and Igor Bourtsev attempted to locate Zana’s grave in a bid to examine her remains for clues to her origins, but were unable to locate the final resting place. However, they did manage to excavate the grave of her youngest son Khwit and took the skull of the dead man to Moscow for examination at the Moscow State University Institute of Anthropology.
An anthropologist M.A. Kolodievea, noted Khwit’s skull was significantly different from that of other Abkhazis. She writes in Bayanov’s In the Footsteps of the Russian Snowman:
The Tkhina skull exhibits an original combination of modern and ancient features … The facial section of the skull is significantly larger in comparison with the mean Abkhaz type … all the measurements and indices of the supercilliary cranial contour are greater not only than those of the mean Abkhaz series: but also than those of the maximum size of some fossil skulls studied for rather were comparable with the latter). The Tkhina skull approaches thee Neolitihic Vovnigi II skulls of the fossil series…
Another anthropolgist M. M. Gerasiomva set down her thoughts on the Khwit skull structure as follows:
The skull discloses a great deal of peculiarity, a certain disharmony, disequilibirum in its features, very large dimensions of the facial skeleton, increased development of the contour of the skull, the specificity of the non-metric features (the two foramina mentale in the lower jaw, the intrusive bones in the sagittal suture, and the Inca bone). The skull merits further extended study.
Bayanov and Bourtsev have been at the forefront of investigations into the identity of these hairy hominids of Russia which have come to be known as Kaptars and Almas depending upon the geographical location in which they are to be found.
They are generally found in mountainous areas like the Caucuses, Pamirs and Tien Shans where the human population is sparse and there are large areas where few humans ever ventured. Usually described as being quite hirsute, Almas and Kaptars appear to have slightly slanting eyes which give them rather mongoloid features, although they are also described as appearing to be almost negroid at times. Their physiology is described as powerful and although they are of normal human height they appear much stronger.
Their facial features consist of prominent eyebrows, recessed eyes, backward sloping forehead, conical skull, short neck and a very powerful jaw structure. The females of the species have very long breasts which have to be slung over the shoulder when in the running mode. When seen to be asleep, witnesses of the Alma phenomenon have stated that the hominids in appearance they closely resemble Neanderthals and there has been much speculation as to whether Almas are indeed relic pockets of this type of human. With recent scientific findings showing that man and Neanderthals have substantial differences in their DNA structures, tear ducts and nasal cavities, it is plausible that the Almas may indeed be surviving Neanderthals.
Siberia is also a hotbed of relic hominoid activity where the creature is generally known by the generic name of “Chuchunaa”. Maya Bykova, an assistant to Dr Boris Porshnev and an activit of the Smolin Seminar on Hominology at Darwin Museum in Moscow, is one of the few scientists who has actually observed a hominoid of unknown identity. In 1985 she was informed by a member of the ethnic Mnasi people named Volodya of a very large hominoid which had frequently visited his grandfather’s hunting cabin in a cedar forest in the midst of several bogs. The creature was nicknamed Mecheny or “marked” because of the the whitish skin skin seen on its left forearm which was the only part of its body not covered by red-brown hair.
Bykova travelled in Volodya’s company to the cabin in a bid to observe the relic hominoid herself and on the morning of Sunday, 16 August, 1985 the personage known as Mecheny duly appeared at dawn in thicket near the cabin. Mecheny stood two metres tall, had prominent brow ridges on his head, eyes which were almond-shaped, a distended jaw, a slit for a mouth and no neck – the head was perched directly on the being’s shoulders. The animal was not seen again during the duration of Bykova’s visit to the cabin, but on a subsequent trip to the location in October that year, events were to transpire which would leave a deep and disturbing impression on Bykova and Volodya.
Volodya had a small dog called Box which had accompanied the humans on their first foray to the forest. On the second visit Box vanished into the woods and was later found with his body ripped apart and its skull crushed. Box’s demise was ascribed by Volodya to Mecheny who had now assumed a menacing air in the eyes of the Mansi. Mecheny is thought to still lurk in the area, but Volodya is wary about actively seeking the unknown hominoid.
In Mongolia Professor Rinchen spent many years tracing the whereabouts of a similar race of hominid. Rinchen was on the faculty of the University of Ulan Bator and lent his considerable academic weight to the pursuit of Almas which had been observed on the Mongolian plateau. A curious mask of an ape-like skull was discovered in the region and bears a close resemblance to the skull of a Gigantopithecus.
In his search for clues to the origins of the Almas, Rinchen came across the product of a human- Almas relationship. A Lama studying at the Lamin-gegen monastery is alleged to have had a father who had been carried away by a group of Almas and during his time with them he was able to father a son by a female Almas. When a passing caravan happened on the scene sometime later, the man and his son managed to escape and return to Mongolian society. The boy proved to be highly intelligent and was so academically brilliant that he had no trouble in being accepted by the lamasery where he became a noted scholar. Just like Zana’s progeny we see another case of highly-productive unions between humans and Almas.
In a vein similar to the Karapeyan story above, soliders of the Mongolian army are said to have killed a number of Alms in 1940. The Mongolian servicemen were on duty on the southwest frontier between Mongolia and China when they saw what they believed to be a group of saboteurs. They opened fire and after a hail of bullets had struck their targets, the soldiers discovered these were not foreign agents, but an unknown hominid species instead.
Rinchen’s mentor had been Professor Tsyben Jamtsarano, founder of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, who, although nowhere near as prolific as his pupil, nonetheless, managed to spend ten years tracking down reports of the existence of Almas in his native country. Jamtsarano mapped out the distribution of Almas in Mongolia and his work proved invaluable to Rinchen and successive generations of Almas researchers.
Jamtsarano had been alerted to the Almas phenomenon by B. B. Baradiyn, who was employed by the Russian Geographical Survey to undertake assignments between Mongolia and Tibet between 1905 and 1907. Just after sundown one evening the leader of the caravan in which Baradiyn was traveling spotted someone climbing a sand dune. Baradiyn and all those in the caravan were able to see an apelike man with long hair bending and reaching down for a protracted period of time. A lama in the party named Shirab Shiplyy tried to chase the being down, but failed to do so. This is not surprising as a friend of Rinchen had been present when a group of searchers attempted to track and take down an Almas specimen while on camels. The Almas were too fleet of foot for the camels and even when the camels were able to catch up with old females members of the Almas tribe, the Almas would emit a high-pitched, ear-splitting shriek which would frighten the camels half to death.
Bardiyn’s written report on the encounter reached Jamtsarano who found the report inspirational. Unfortunately Jamtsarano died while languishing in prison – a victim of the Stalinist purges. His body of work has landed in hands that carefully protect the precious information from those who would abuse Jamtsarano and Rinchen’s work.
The most recent sighting of an Almas took place in western Mongolia in 2003. The internet publication, Mongolian Messenger, reported that a female driving instructor and a male friend had been hiking in the Altai mountains when, suddenly, the woman was attacked by a manlike creature who was covered with hair from head to toe. The woman struggled momentarily with the creature, but fortunately her male companion leapt to her help and drove the Almas away.
British adventurer, Adam Davies, has recently spent time investigating the Almas in Mongolia and it is interesting to note that there was still recognition of this name by the nomadic horsemen which live in areas previously inhabited by Almas. It is hoped that future investigations by Davies and others will prompt more recollections from people residing in the Almas heartland.
Since the demise of communism, Mongolia has opened up to the West and one hopes that a joint collaboration between scientists from abroad and Mongolian scholars will help us learn more about the strange man-like creatures