Ancient Humans Were Fast Runners Too

Last night in the Olympic stadium (London), Usain Bolt the Jamaican sprinter, retained the Olympic 100 metres title in a winning time of 9.63 seconds.  He took just forty-one strides to complete the course, breaking the Olympic record for the distance as he did so.  The twenty-five year old crossed the finish line at something in excess of 23 mph, his training partner and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake came in second in a phenomenal 9.75 seconds.  Over one million people had applied for tickets to see what is regarded by many as the blue ribbon event of the entire Games and to witness the great Jamaican sprinters in action.  However, one scientist thinks that some ancient humans could give Usain Bolt and company a run for their money.

Anthropologist  Peter McAllister thinks that a set of preserved footprints of aborigines in Australia suggests that some early settlers on that continent would have been right up there with the likes of Bolt if they were asked to run the 100 metres final. Mr McAllister’s analysis of the footprints suggests that this group of humans were capable of running at up to 23 mph, bare foot and over soft mud in their pursuit of prey.  Or perhaps they were being pursued themselves, trying to avoid becoming a meal for one of the many super-predators that they shared their Australian home with.

One of the Ice Age Footprints from the Track Way

As fast as an Olympic athlete?

Picture Credit: Nature/NewsBlog

The prints of six men chasing prey and Mr McAllister’s analysis leads him to believe these men if trained and provided with modern running shoes could beat Usain Bolt in a sprint.  Peter claims that these ancient ancestors of ours could theoretically reach sprinting speeds of up to 28 mph.  It is not known what speeds the likes of Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake or Tyson Gay could reach if they were being chased and in fear of their lives.

There has been a lot of debate about just how fast this group of humans were running.  The tracks are located at Willandra Lakes (south-east Australia), one individual, known as T8, changes he stride length from 1.8 metres to 1.9 metres over a distance of approximately 11 metres.  This suggests acceleration, in other words this person began to run faster, however estimates of the speed of these bare-footed people running across soft mud does vary.  Some scientists have calculated that this runner was moving at around thirteen miles an hour, a lot slower than an Olympic sprinter.  However, Mr McAllister states that with training, on the right track and with running shoes T8 could run perhaps as fast as 28 mph.

To read a more complete article regarding the abilities of ancient hominids: Could Ancient Humans Kick Butt?

Were not taking anything away from Usain Bolt in terms of his achievements, he is a truly remarkable athlete, but our ancestors were much more used to hard physical work when compared to their modern counterparts.  Perhaps given the right training, nutrition and equipment; a New Stone Age Man or Woman could compete with today’s Olympians.

Comments have been made in the Australian media about the relatively poor showing of Australian competitors at these Games, perhaps our chums down under can take comfort in the fact that an anthropologists believes that at least some ancient Australians would have been medal contenders.

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