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They used a high-speed treadmill capable of attaining speeds greater than 40 miles per hour and of acquiring precise measurements of the forces applied to the surface with each footfall.
The unconventional tests were strategically selected to test the prevailing beliefs about mechanical factors that limit human running speeds -- specifically, the idea that the speed limit is imposed by how forcefully a runner's limbs can strike the ground.
"Our simple projections indicate that muscle contractile speeds that would allow for maximal or near-maximal forces would permit running speeds of 35 to 40 miles per hour and conceivably faster," Bundle said.
Webb's own track analysis has yielded some intriguing conclusions, particularly for the prints left by a group he calls the Five Hunters.
The archaeologist used data from 17,000-year-old human remains excavated nearby and details from the tracks themselves, such as foot size and stride length. The bones suggest the people were tall, in good health, and very athletic.
What's more, Webb calculates that one hunter was running at 23 miles (37 kilometers) an hour, or as fast as an Olympic sprinter. "If you weren't fit in those days, you didn't survive," Webb said.