London Eye: Fastest caveman on earth would be Bolt from the past

Shock! Horror! Hold the back page! Usain Bolt is, in all probability, not the fastest man who ever walked the planet – or ran on it, naturally. In his brilliant, updated story of the men's 100m Olympic champions, The Fastest Men on Earth, Neil Duncanson tells of Australian anthropologists discovering 20,000-year-old fossilised footprints sealed in mud showing that cave men from the Pleistocene Age were running at speeds of 37 kilometres per hour – barefoot, on undulating terrain, and armed with heavy spears.

"Scientists believe that these aboriginal ancestors would have been capable of speeds of more than 45km/h if they'd had the same modern advantages as Usain Bolt," Duncanson writes.

Bolt's average speed when he clocked his 9.58sec 100m world record at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009 was 37.58km/h. In old money, that's 23.35mph.

"Of course, these Stone Age fast men were also well motivated, either chasing dinner or being chased as dinner," Duncanson continues. "It is a widely held anthropological view that 21st century man is the worst example of physical manhood in history and that the comforts of modern life and a bewildering array of distractions have left him soft, slow and vulnerable.

"All the evidence points to the fact that Stone Age men would have beaten today's Olympic athletes out of sight – at everything."

Still, Duncanson's book (published next month by Andre Deutsch at £18.99) does a fine job of chronicling the fastest men on earth in the modern Olympic era. It is a revision of the volume he produced in the run-up to the 1988 Olympics.

In that edition the chapter about the reigning 100m champion Carl Lewis looked ahead to the looming Games in Seoul and to the threat posed to the American by Ben Johnson. It touched, inevitably, on the aspersions already being cast on Johnson, whose name might be denoted with an asterisk at the foot of the result of the 1988 men's final but the tale of his rise and fall has been pivotal to the history of the fastest folk on earth since caveman days.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor