An anthropologist has described modern man as “the sorriest cohort of masculine Homo sapiens to ever walk the planet”, with even Arnold Schwarzenegger at his muscular peak no match for a Neanderthal woman in the arm-wrestling stakes.
According to Peter McAllister, in Manthropology: the Science of Inadequate Modern Man, so completely wussy have we become that were Usain "Lightning" Bolt to go head-to-head with an ancient Australian aboriginal, it'd be silver medal position for the Jamaican sprinter.
The prologue of McAllister's book warns blokes just how much of a humiliation they're in for, opening with: "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.”
Chaps are then reminded that a Roman soldier was able to march one-and-a-half marathons in a single day, Rwandan Tutsi men could jump higher then the current world record of 2.45 metres, and Huichol Indian dads in Mexico tied strings to their 'nads so that their other half could give a quick tug during labour enabling them to share the childbirth experience.
Regarding the inadequacy of Schwarzenegger, McAllister studied the remains of "La Ferrassie 2", a Neanderthal lass discovered in a French cave in 1909. She boasted ten per cent more muscle than modern European men, and her upper arm strength was more than enough to "slam him to the table without a problem”.
Usain Bolt's nemesis, meanwhile, was an aboriginal man running barefoot on the shore of a lake in New South Wales around 20,000 years ago. His footprints, preserved in the soft mud, show he was sprinting at 37 km/h - not as fast as Bolt's top speed of 42 km/h, but without the benefit of "spiked shoes, a special track, a strict training regime, and money and glory to spur him on", as the Sydney Morning Herald puts it.
The reason for our decline is pretty obvious: general inactivity and a lack of hard graft. McAllister notes: "We are so inactive these days and have been since the industrial revolution really kicked into gear. These people were much more robust than we were. 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.
"We are simply not exposed to the same loads or challenges that people were in the ancient past and even in the recent past so our bodies haven't developed. Even the level of training that we do, our elite athletes, doesn't come close to replicating that."
Those parents wishing to restore the male of the species to his former glory have a few options available: start your son firing arrows from galloping horses at the age of two, the better to emulate deadly accurate 12th century Mongol bowmen; train your offspring to throw an aboriginal hardwood spear 110 metres plus (as did the original Down Under locals, putting the current javelin world of 98.48 metres into perspective); or reserve him a seat on an Athenian oar-driven vessel, whose crew could easily out-row modern oarsmen. ®