According to legend, the almas (“wildman” in Mongolian) lives in the Tian Shan mountains of China and the neighboring Altay Shan mountains of western Mongolia. Almases are described as humanlike creatures whose bodies, but not faces, are covered in reddish brown or black hair. They are said to have jutting jaws and flat noses, to walk upright, to be approximately five feet (1.5m) tall, and to eat plants, vegetables, and grass. Similar creatures have been reported in other parts of Mongolia as well as in Russia and elsewhere on the Asian continent; consequently, there are more than fifty words in various languages and dialects that mean almas.
No Westerner in modern times has claimed to have seen an almas, but during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, investigators such as Russian scientist Tsyben Zhamtsarano made sketches of these man-beasts based on numerous eyewitness accounts. Unfortunately, these drawings and reports have since been lost or destroyed, and no physical remains of an almas have ever been found. Similarly, Dordji Meiren, an associate of Zhamtsarano’s, insisted he had seen an almas skin being kept in a Mongolian Budalmas dhist monastery, although nobody has been able to confirm the skin’s existence. The first written reference to an almas appeared in a journal written by Bavarian nobleman Hans Schiltberger in the 1420s. Schiltberger claimed that while a prisoner of the Mongols, he saw several male and female almases in captivity, eating plants and grass. Westeners have reported seeing signs of the creature in modern times. For example, in the 1960s French surgeon Marie-Jeanne Josefovna Koffman claimed to have seen two almas “nests” in a remote region of Russia. These were grassy areas with a storehouse of various foods, including potatoes, pumpkins, and corncobs; the corncobs had teethmarks that Koffman believed were from a humanlike creature with a jaw too wide to be human. Koffman also collected hundreds of reports of almas-like creatures sighted by peasants and teapickers in the valleys of the Caucasus Mountains, located between the Black and Caspian seas, near Karbada, Russia. Upon studying Koffman’s work, some scientists, such as British anthropologist Myra Shackley, have suggested that almases are remnants of a race of prehistoric humans known as Neanderthals. Other scientists, such as British anthropologist Chris Stringer, believe that almases represent a different type of prehistoric human, perhaps originating in Mongolia. Skeptics, however, think that the creatures are mythical and do not exist at all.