Good Condition as the Evolutionary Norm

It is a mistake to envision our hominid ancestors as bedraggled, dirty, shuffling, sniffling, unhealthy cave-dwellers. They lived outside on a sort of perpetual camping trip, and got a lot of exercise. They had an excellent diet by modern standards, probably consuming about four pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, and perhaps one pound of lean meat on good days (undomesticated game animals have very low body fat). They consumed hardly any salt or sugar, no chocolate, and no beer. They had no dairy products other than their mother's milk. They could not even eat pasta, bread, noodles, or oatmeal until cereal grains were domesticated around 10,000 years ago. The females would have been used to walking miles every day carrying infants and plant foods, and perhaps firewood and water. The males would have been used to chasing down wounded game, running for very long distances. Even our middle-aged ancestors would have remained in very good condition because they would still have made their livings as foragers.

Were we to be transported back 100,000 years in a time machine, we should not expect ancient humans of the opposite sex to fall on their knees and worship our god-like forms. If they were living in a reasonably food-rich habitat, they would probably have been as tall and healthy as us, and in considerably better shape. A week of living in the bush would have obliterated our initial cleanness and reduced our fine clothes to tatters. Any initial sexual interest we provoked would probably evaporate entirely after our total incompetence at hunting and gathering was revealed, and our cowardice in the face of wild baboons, leopards, snakes, elephants, and lions became the subject of jokes. Our bodies would, however, have provoked greater respect in any of the more recent pre-modern agricultural civilizations, in which nutrient-poor diets and communicable disease shrank average human stature by a foot and shortened human lifespans by decades.

Our ancestors would have considered most modern humans to be ridiculously fat, weak, breathless, unfit, and clumsy. They could not drive to the convenience store for a six-pack or a halfgallon of ice cream. They would not have been burdened by excess fat or by the excess muscle attained by modern bodybuilders by using weight machines, protein shakes, and steroids. Conan the Barbarian would have been too musclebound to run after and catch injured gazelles. Like modern human hunter-

gatherers, our ancestors must have been relatively lithe, fit enough to run after game or away from predators, and strong enough to carry animal carcasses or infants long distances.

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