Prehistoric man – faster than a speeding Bolt

HE WOULD have struggled with the iPhone and clubbed the computer to pieces, but prehistoric man, if resurrected today, would have scooped Olympic gold.

Ancient aboriginals in Australia would have outrun Usain Bolt, the fastest man alive, while a Neanderthal woman would have crushed Arnold Schwarzenegger in arm-wrestling, according to a leading anthropologist.

Peter McAllister, the author of Manthropology: the Science of Inadequate Modern Man, claims men today are the weakest in history and would have been trumped in feats of strength or speed by our ancient ancestors.

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The anthropologist writes in the opening sentence of the prologue: "If you're reading this then you – or the male you have bought it for – are the worst man in history. No ifs, no buts – the worst man, period… As a class we are in fact the sorriest cohort of masculine homo sapiens to ever walk the planet."

Delving into a wide range of source material, Mr McAllister finds evidence he believes proves modern man is inferior to his predecessors in, among other fields, the basic Olympic athletics disciplines of running and jumping.

His conclusions about the speed of Australian aboriginals 20,000 years ago are based on a set of footprints, preserved in a fossilised claypan lake bed, of six men chasing prey. An analysis of the footsteps of one of the men, dubbed T8, shows he reached speeds of 37 kph on a soft, muddy lake edge.

Bolt, by comparison, reached a top speed of 42 kph during his then world 100 metres record of 9.69 seconds at last year's Beijing Olympics.

Mr McAllister said that, with modern training, spiked shoes and rubberised tracks, aboriginal hunters might have reached speeds of 45 kph.

He said: "We can assume they are running close to their maximum if they are chasing an animal. But if they can do that speed of 37 kph on very soft ground, I suspect there is a strong chance they would have outdone Usain Bolt if they had all the advantages that he does.

"We can tell that T8 is accelerating towards the end of his tracks."

Mr McAllister said it was probable that any number of T8's contemporaries could have run as fast. "We have to remember, too, how incredibly rare these fossilisations are. What are the odds that you would get the fastest runner in Australia at that particular time in that particular place in such a way that was going to be preserved?"

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Turning to the high jump, Mr McAllister said photographs taken by a German anthropologist showed young men jumping heights of up to 2.52 metres early last century.

"It was an initiation ritual, everybody had to do it. They had to be able to jump their own height to progress to manhood. It was something they did all the time and they lived very active lives from a very early age. They developed very phenomenal abilities in jumping. They were jumping from boyhood onwards to prove themselves."

Mr McAllister said a Neanderthal woman had 10 per cent more muscle bulk than modern European man. Trained to capacity, she would have reached 90 per cent of Schwarzenegger's bulk at his peak in the 1970s. However, because of the quirk of her physiology, with a much shorter lower arm, he believes Neanderthal woman would have been able to "slam him to the table without a problem", he said.

The reason for the decline in modern humans is that we are more inactive than at any time in history. Mankind, or at least those in the developed world, has been increasingly inactive since the industrial revolution.

Mr McAllister said: "At the start of the industrial revolution there are statistics about how much harder people worked then. The human body is very plastic, and it responds to stress. We have lost 40 per cent of the shafts of our long bones, because we have much less of a muscular load placed upon them these days."