an imaginative look a palaeolithic life

Palaeolithic workouts

Following on from my earlier article about how humans are adapted for long distance running, and in response to the number of people who “go paleo”, here are some workouts inspired by the hunting techniques of palaeolithic humans.

Disclaimer: this post is for educational purposes, to illustrate just how fit and strong palaeolithic people were.  These workouts require an extreme level of strength and/or conditioning, attempt at your own risk.

Homo erectus workout

1. warm up by walking around and stretching out a bit and having a laugh with your workout buddies (humans are pack hunters)

2. sprint as fast as you can for as long as you can.  You are chasing an animal until it gets away.

3. Throw 2 six-sided dice.  Jog or run at a slow/fairly easy pace for the minutes the dice tells you.  This is how long it takes you to track the animal and find where it’s resting so you can chase it again.

4. repeat 2 and 3 three times.

5. throw 2 six-sided dice again… if you get snake eyes (double 1) you catch the animal and can proceed to step 6.  if you get any other number combination, you must repeat 2 and 3, then throw again.  Keep repeating 2, 3 and 5 until you get snake eyes.

6. throw the two dice again.  this is how many miles away from home you are.  Walk home, carrying a sandbag on your shoulders (to represent your share of the meat you’re helping to carry home).

7. Eat barbequed meat as your post-workout meal.  (We’ll assume you’re emulating a later Homo erectus, seeing as it’s probably not good for the Homo sapiens digestive system to eat raw meat.)

Homo neanderthalensis workout

1. throw a 6 sided dice.  This is how many kilometers you have to walk to get to where the animals are.  Neanderthals lived in mountainous regions, so at least half of this walk needs to be uphill.

2. you have to sneak up on an animal and kill it quickly… there are a number of ways you can emulate this.  A wrestling match or throwing your weight at a punchbag or something might work… anything that involves a lot of strength and power and a high intensity of exercise.  This would probably be for a fairly short duration, but I don’t know how long it would have taken because I have never attempted to kill a large mammal using a middle palaeolithic spear.  However you emulate this, be very aggressive and give it 100% or you won’t get a post-workout meal.

3. walk home while fireman carrying someone the same weight as you or heavier (the same distance as for 1).  This represents your share of the animal you’re carrying home.  Yes it’s larger than the one in the Homo erectus workout; neanderthals hunted bigger animals than Homo erectus did.  This too has to be at least 50% uphill.  They lived in the mountains; home was generally in an uphill direction.  Now you know why neanderthals were so heavily built.

4. eat a post-workout meal of barbequed meat.  You can cook some veggies on the barbeque to go with it if you want.

Homo sapiens sapiens workout:

This is just like the Homo erectus workout, but instead of throwing a dice for step 5, you fire a arrow or throw a throwing spear at a moving target.  If you get a bullseye, or hit the target (non-bullseye) for a 3rd time, the animal is dead and you preceed to step 6.

After being hit by a non-fatal blow (i.e. a non-bullseye hit to the target) the animal is slower so tracking it will be easier.  After one non-fatal hit, multiply the number you throw for step 3 by 0.6, after two non-fatal hits, multiply it by 0.3.  Run for this number of minutes each time.

It should be clear by now just how much a species of couch potatoes modern humans have become.  I hope this inspires some Homo sapiens sapiens couch potatoes to get out and do some more exercise.  You can match the workout to your goals.  If you want to be built like a neanderthal, then work out for power and strength, if you want the endurance of a Homo erectus, then go running.   Or at least get out and do some kind of physical activity that you enjoy because humans evolved to be a lot more active than many people are nowadays.

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2 responses

  1. Long distance running models (“endurance running”, “Savannahstan”, “burn to run”, “le singe coureur”, “dogged pursuit of swifter animals” etc.) for archaic Homo (erectus, neandertals etc.) are pure fantasy, still in the tradition of Man the Mighty Hunter. For a demolition of these running ideas, please google “econiche Homo”.
    All fossils of archaic Homo are found next to edible shellfish, at coastal or riverine sediments. At the waterside they also found drowned ungulates, stranded whales, water lilies, cattails etc., all of which are known to have been eaten by archaic Homo.
    Archaic Homo were simply too heavy for running, they had short shin bones, were broadly built, etc. Their anatomy suggests they spent a lot of time in water: ear exostoses, external nose, brain enlargment (DHA), apparently they dispersed as far as Flores, England (Pakefield) & the Cape along the coasts, and from there inland along rivers.
    More info & refs can befound at “Verhaegen guest post Greg Laden”.
    –marc verhaegen

    July 16, 2013 at 23:11

    • re heavy build and short shin bones – that applies to neanderthals (i.e. they are derived neanderthal characteristics, not shared by earlier humans), who most likely hunted using stealth and/or driving animals into traps, using stone tipped spears to kill them. The persistence hunting theory is about how much earlier humans hunted, i.e. Homo erectus or possibly even earlier. They had longer limbs and a more slender build, you can see that on the Nariokotome boy skeleton (aka KNM-WT 15000) the most complete Homo erectus skeleton found to date – he was tall and fairly slender and had a narrow pelvis, which are better body proportions for running. regarding exploitation of coastal food resources – this does not rule out that humans hunted. humans are opportunists and capable of exploiting a wide range of food sources. There’s ample evidence for humans hunting in the fossil record.

      July 23, 2013 at 00:41

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