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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering