In his book Manthropology: The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male, anthropologist Peter McAllister writes, "As a class we are in fact the sorriest cohort of masculine Homo sapiens to ever walk the planet."
According to John Mehaffey of Reuters, McCallister's evidence includes a set of footprints made by Australian aborigines chasing game 20,000 years ago. Analysis of the footprints shows the men were running at about 37 kph (23 mph) along the muddy shore of a lake. For comparison, world record holder Usain Bolt reached a speed of 42 kph (26 mph) at the Beijing Olympics. McAllister writes,
We can assume they are running close to their maximum if they are chasing an animal. But if they can do that speed of 37 kph 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.
Our ancestors were apparently also better at beatdowns. Neanderthal women, says McAllister, had 10% more muscle mass than modern European men, and a Neanderthal woman could have beaten Arnold Schwarzenegger at arm wrestling (though her shorter forearm length sort of sounds like cheating). At this point I'm imagining a pretty funny Conan the Barbarian sequel involving time travel, but there's more: modern men also suck at jumping, even compared to men of the last century. McAllister deduced this from photos taken by a German anthropologist, showing men jumping up to 2.52 m (8.3 feet). He writes,
It was an initiation ritual, everybody had to do it. They had to be able to jump their own height to progress to manhood. It was something they did all the time and they lived very active lives from a very early age. They developed very phenomenal abilities in jumping. They were jumping from boyhood onwards to prove themselves.
The Era of the Human Pogo Stick sounds like a pretty silly time to be alive, but McAllister laments how far men have fallen. He says,
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. We wouldn't want to go back to the brutality of those days but there are some things we would do well to profit from.
And, more bluntly, in the prologue to his book:
If you're reading this then you — or the male you have bought it for — are the worst man in history.
Of course, not being able to arm-wrestle a Neanderthal woman doesn't make you "the worst man in history," nor does jumping prowess determine masculinity. Manthropology is clearly intended to be kind of funny, but it does seem to promote some pretty lame gender stereotypes. I do wonder if manthropologist McAllister has anything to say about women — like, say, what they were doing while men were spending all their time jumping.
Modern Man A Wimp Says Anthropologist [Reuters]