LONDON - Many prehistoric Australian aboriginals could have outrun world 100m and 200m record holder Usain Bolt in modern conditions.
Some Tutsi men in Rwanda exceeded the current world high jump record of 2,45m during initiation ceremonies in which they had to jump at least their own height to progress to manhood.
Any Neanderthal woman could have beaten former body-builder and current California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in arm-wrestling.
These and other remarkable claims are detailed in a book by Australian anthropologist Peter McAllister entitled Manthropology and provocatively sub-titled "The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male".
McAllister sets out his stall 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, McAllister finds evidence he believes proves that 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 20000 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 37kmh on a soft, muddy lake edge.
Bolt, by comparison, reached a top speed of 42kmh in his world 100m record of 9,69 seconds at last year's Beijing Olympics.
In an interview in the English university town of Cambridge, McAllister said that - with modern training, spiked shoes and rubberised tracks - aboriginal hunters might have reached speeds of 45km/h.
"We can assume they are running close to their maximum if they are chasing an animal," he said.
"But if they can do that speed of 37km/h 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." - Reuters