Quest for the Humanzee
Zecharia Sitchin often says that modern science is simply catching up with ancient knowledge. His research looks at the possibility that humanity is essentially a genetically-modified ape. He derived this insight from a literal reading of ancient texts, pursuing the idea that we are physically half-god, half-ape. According to Sitchin, this creation came about because technologically advanced beings visited our world millions of years ago and created a race of slave-workers from the animal stock available on the planet (1).
To do this they fused together some of their own advanced DNA with that of Earthly apes, creating frightening chimeras. Eventually, after many grotesque mistakes, they created a relatively useful being that was physically robust and adaptable, but also intelligent. In other words, us!
Now, you can readily dismiss this as imaginative speculation. You could even attempt to psycho-analyse Sitchin and see his unusual vision of human development as a personal attempt to get to grips with the warped thinking of the Nazis who conducted such evil experiments upon European Jews during the Second World War. More likely, you might simply wonder whether such ideas are just profoundly misguided, even blasphemous.
However, I can see merit in some of the ideas of Zecharia Sitchin. My personal quest to understand the nature of the tenth planet is testament to that. Although I am no expert in the realm of genetic research it seems clear to me that modern science is indeed moving in the direction that Sitchin envisaged some 30 years ago. It should give pause for thought for anyone who dismisses his theories entirely out of hand.
The reason I can say that is the remarkable direction taken by some of the scientists conducting stem cell research. Now, I should quickly point out that I have no axe to grind here. I am essentially neutral on the subject's political and moral repercussions. I can see merit in arguments for this kind of research because of the potential benefits to the many people suffering debilitating diseases. There's also great potential for organ tissue transplantation. At the same time, I can also understand the moral viewpoints of objectors to this kind of research who dislike the use of human embryos. It's a highly contested moral topic, reflecting the dilemmas Sitchin attested for the 'Anunnaki' of old.
When the UK Parliament debated these issues, as they moved towards creating the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act 1990, many MPs expressed concern with work involving the mixing of human stem cells with specific animal cells from mice or hamsters (2). The latter cells help the human stem cells to develop in a particular direction towards specific types of cell tissue. These 2-cell stems would effectively be 'chimeras' of human/animal hybrids, albeit at a minimalist level. These 'humsters' or 'mansters' would never be allowed to get beyond the 2-cell stage MPs were told. But research like this is not confined to the UK, and there is now talk about the creation of these kinds of hybrid embryos at a more advanced level (see 2021 update below).
There is serious discussion about the creation of embryos of mice that that have human brain cells, perhaps as much as 1%. Now bear in mind that there is actually very little genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees. The 3% of the DNA that is different in these species has a profound effect on their physical and mental characteristics. Scientists wonder whether legitimate research may soon take place mixing stem cells of humans with other primates. This brings forward the notion of the creation of a chimera known as a "humanzee".
The idea of a human/chimpanzee hybrid may not be that fanciful. Science has recently determined just how closely we are related:
"...we are so closely related that chimps should not only be part of the same taxonomic family, but also the same genus. The new study [by a team led by Morris Goodman of Wayne State University in Detroit (3)] found that 99.4 percent of the most critical DNA sites are identical in the corresponding human and chimp genes. With that close a relationship, the two living chimp species belong in the genus Homo..." (4)
Professor Steve Jones, a well-regarded British geneticist, thinks that this is a very real possibility, but questions why anyone would actually want to create such an entity (5). Other more noisy sceptics deplore the very idea, using it to justify withering attacks on genetic research in general.
This particular argument will run and run. But I am struck by how similar this issue is to that presented by Zecharia Sitchin back in 1976. Are we simply re-creating the experiments that the Anunnaki set about fulfilling hundreds of thousands of years ago? Might we one day also create a slave-race of 'humanzees' to tend our gardens or descend with pick-axes into our mines?
Will we treat a new species any better than we were treated by our 'gods'? After all, according to Sitchin, they grew concerned by our proliferation and our unbridled aggression. They left us to our fate when the Flood came, surprised by the resourcefulness that allowed certain humans to escape extinction. At that point, the Anunnaki abandoned Earth and left us to it. The rest is quite literally history.
During the last century or so, there have been many rumours of breakthroughs in this fringe area of scientific research. Rumours of hybrid chimp/humans go back as far as the 1920s (6). Based on hearsay, even within quite eminent circles, they seem to have little basis in fact but culminated in popular mythologies about human/chimpanzee hybrids.
However, a Soviet scientist named Ilya Ivanov did make serious a attempt to cross-breed humans and chimps in the 1920s and 30s, but these ethically highly questionable experiments were ultimately unsuccessful (7). In the 1960s, Chinese attempts to impregnate chimpanzees with human sperm were frustrated by the Cultural Revolution (8). That didn't entirely stop this research effort, with reports emerging from the Chinese Academy of Sciences of a further attempt to impregnate an ape with human sperm, this time in 1981 (9).
Although apes and humans share a lot of DNA - "95 percent of their DNA sequence and 99 percent of coding DNA sequence" (8) - these kinds of crude attempts at genetic hybridisation seem destined to fail. The divergence of human and chimp lineages over the last few million years seems to have rendered cross-fertilization problematic - although there is startling evidence that interbreeding did occur long after the split.
"Analysis of human and animal genes in 2006 provides strong evidence that after humans had clearly diverged from apes, interspecies mating nonetheless occurred regularly enough to change certain genes in the new gene pool: "A new comparison of the human and chimp genomes suggests that after the two lineages separated, they may have begun interbreeding... A principal finding is that the X chromosomes of humans and chimps appear to have diverged about 1.2 million years more recently than the other chromosomes."" (10)
More recently, an international team of scientists working in China confirmed the 'creation' of the first human-monkey hybrid in 2019, with a view towards developing the science of hybrid organs suitable for transplantation:
"The team, made up of
members of the Salk Institute in the United States and the Murcia Catholic
University (UCAM) in Spain, genetically modified monkey embryos to deactivate
genes that are essential to the formation of organs. The scientists then
injected human stem cells, which are capable of creating any type of tissue,
into the embryo. The product of this work is a monkey with human cells that has
not been born, because researchers stopped the process." (11)
China appears to be the country of choice for this kind of controversial hybridisation research work. Most other countries in the world have formulated strict restrictions on ethical grounds. Even in relatively regulation-free China (ironic...?), international scientists are limited in how long the chimera embryos can be allowed to develop towards gestation:
"No such human-monkey hybrid has ever been born. The mixed embryos do not progress past one to two weeks of growth inside the lab." (12)
Not wishing to be entirely sidelined by its continental neighbour, Japan broke with the consensus in the West in 2019 to allow human-monkey hybrid embryo experiments. Funding quickly followed the partial deregulation.
A blastocyst of a monkey–human chimera.
Image credit: Weizhi Ji, Kunming University of Science and Technology
The idea was to improve understanding of human-animal cell hybridisation more generally, but stem-cell research in the field is getting progressively edgier as a result. Like Enki and his collaborators, humanity is grappling with the cost-benefit analysis of creating hybrids of its own species with other sentient, albeit lesser species. Thinking more of the Enlil sphere of influence, what we've considered here is only what we know from the available evidence in the public domain - who knows what work is going on within the darker corners of covert military research?
Written by Andy Lloyd, 30th March 2005 and updated 18 December 2021
author of 'The Dark Star' (2005), 'Ezekiel One' (2009), 'The Followers of Horus' (2010) and 'Darker Stars' (2019)
1) Zecharia Sitchin "The Twelfth Planet" Avon books, 1976
2) Human Fertilisation And Embryology Act 1990: Vol. 190: debated on Friday 3 May 1991
3) Derek Wildman et al "Implications of natural selection in shaping 99.4% nonsynonymous DNA identity between humans and chimpanzees: Enlarging genus Homo", PNAS, 100 (12): 7181-7188, 10 June 2003,
4) Jeff Hecht "Chimps are human, gene study implies" 19 May 2003
5) 'Today' BBC Radio 4, 30 March 2005
6) Peter Dockrill "Scientist Claims US Lab Engineered 'Humanzee' Human-Chimp Hybrid 100 Years Ago" 31 January 2018
7) Stephanie Pain "Blasts from the past: The Soviet ape-man scandal" 20 August 2008
8) Katie Serena "It Turns Out Scientists Have Tried To Create Human-Chimp Hybrids Called “Humanzees”" 26 April 2018
9) Andrei Tapalaga "Scientists Playing God Managed To Create a Human-Chimpanzee Hybrid"
11) Manuel Ansede "Spanish scientists create human-monkey chimera in China" 31 July 2019
12) Mike Colagrossi "Spanish scientists are making ‘very promising’ human-monkey chimeras in China" 5 August 2019
13) Nidhi Subbaraman "First monkey–human embryos reignite debate over hybrid animals" 15 April 2021