NY Times on urban "cavemen"

The members of this paleo tribe in New York City eat lots of meat, fast frequently, donate blood to stress their systems, and exercise by "scooting around the underbrush on all fours, leaping between boulders, [and] playing catch with stones."
NycpaleosMost of the cavemen at Mr. Durant’s gatherings are lean and well-muscled, and have glowing skin. A few wear trim beards. Some claim that they no longer get sick. Several identify themselves as libertarians.

They regularly grumble about vegans, whom they regard as a misguided, rival tribe. But much of the conversation is spent parsing the law of the jungle. The most severe interpretations generally come from Vladimir Averbukh, a jaunty red-headed Web manager for the city who was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Upon visiting Mr. Durant’s apartment for the first time, in August, Mr. Averbukh scowled at a tomato plant on his host’s roof deck.

The New Age Cavemen and the City (Photo by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)


  1. Most of the cavemen at Mr. Durant’s gatherings are lean and well-muscled, and have glowing skin

    Sounds like a description of young people to me…

    I suspect these guys are a bunch of pansies. When I was that age we played catch with spears. Bhil could throw two at the same time, just like in the sagas.

    But maybe I’m just annoyed that all my habits that people have always told me are “unhealthy” (eating raw meat, not eating sugar for 32 years, forgetting to eat at all for days at a time, running game trails etc. etc.) are suddenly a health craze. Ignore me, I’m apparently some sort of caveman.

  2. Meh. Just another group to allow people to think themselves better than others. Perhaps they should abstain from other modern things, antibiotics, etc.

  3. Hmmm, eating meat, occasionally fasting, and playing sports all while enjoying the benefit of contemporary medicine and technology.

    Sounds so… primal. Maybe they should just move here to Texas and try their hands at some manual labor in the summer. A few months in the sun will fix that complexion for them… and a little hard work might remove the need to drain blood.

  4. I’m sure there’s some bias from the reporter that’s painting the picture of people following a stereotypical pop-culture caveperson lifestyle.

    Although the article never uses the word “science,” it does reference Dr. Loren Cordain who has many reputable qualifications, as far as I can tell.

    Hopefully they’ll stick to the lifestyle for their lifetimes, and keep track of their medical vitals to have some hard data for research purposes.

  5. I really don’t see what would be surprising about being healthy on a meat based diet. As far as I know it’s not the meat itself but the total quality of food that is so unhealthy in the American diet specifically.

    So eating some rare steak every week and then very little the next couple days hardly seems unhealthy, but eating a giant diet coke and a calzone with a slice of chocolate cheesecake once a week and very little the next day would probably contribute to illness.

    Especially if they are actually getting a lot of exercise, then the high protein would be important anyway.

    Meh… just my ramblings, I’m no dietitian.

  6. The whole thing bugged me. It’s like an ’80s fad out of American Psycho or something. What bugged me the most though, was the phrase Pre-Promethean. I know it gets the point across, but it seems concocted in a bad way. Pre-fire would work just fine.

  7. These guys, the Amish, whatever. It’s all absurd.

    Now my new group, wherein we only use technology invented before 1950, is the way to go.

  8. Again, another asinine diet! The primary staple of hunter gathers is NOT meat but tubers and nuts, as in carbs that women foraged for and would be available almost all the time. Total b.s. diet, not based on what we know of those who live nomadically using stones for tools.

    The best approximate model for this diet is actually Yupik/Inupiaq/Inupiat which has as the primary source of intake as flesh, lot of fish and sometimes oddities as caribou guts and contents (guts have nutrients we don’t make ourselves and wouldn’t get since we’d be missing fruits and vegetables a great deal of the year). You can survive on mainly flesh, however it takes a great deal of eating that to our contemporaries would be odd, as in the whole animal and parts normally discarded.

    Total twits.

  9. “…They regularly grumble about vegans, whom they regard as a misguided, rival tribe…”


    You want to do your thing, fine, but don’t claim to be superior to other people.This kind of mentality has history.

  10. Alls I know is in the photo they look like the cast of a new superhero movie. Left to right: The hero (noble hearted but flawed), the cynical girl, and the bad-boy loose cannon. I kind of love them.

  11. How self-consciously unique of them! If the main guy works in advertising, wonder what clients he’s done work for?

  12. “Mr. Durant believes the human body evolved for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and his goal is to wean himself off what he sees as many millenniums of bad habits.”

    Yes, by living in the city.

  13. Quote: “I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do,” Mr. Durant said.

    Nope, you want to do some faddish diet that urban hipsters would do! Congrats, mission accomplished. (not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

  14. I’m a little skeptical. Partly because it’s yet another fad diet, of course.

    But the other part is that some researchers (e.g., Richard Wrangham) make a good case that cooking is a key part of our evolutionary history. Which has always made sense to me. Why does cooked meat smell so good? Because all the people who thought otherwise died young.

  15. “Symbolic of change, but the the thing that is strange is that the change has occurred, and now they’re just a part of the herd yeah yeah.”

    Go Figure.

  16. FTA: “Mr. Durant, 26, who works in online advertising…”

    Is that what we’re calling spam these days? Sounds classy!

  17. Check the photos on their meetup page… bottles of wine, extra virgin olive oil, khaki pants? plz. This all smacks of this urban male inadequacy syndrome. See previous NYT article about city boys jaunting upstate for Whitetail deer hunting. Now THAT’S getting it done paleo-style.

  18. I find it hilarious that one dude talks about eating sushi. Don’t these urban tools eschew agricultural products, and wouldn’t that include rice?

    A friend recently mentioned that she had met some paleo people (possibly this selfsame “tribe” described? don’t know). At that moment, I was reading Richard Leakey’s “People of the Lake”, and all I could think of was “But do they butcher the hippopotamus with stone knives?”

    Captcha: jowls prostitution

    1. Sure he means Sushi? He could be talking about Sashimi, which is just the raw fish without the vinegar soaked rice.

      1. @45: The man says sushi; he might have meant sashimi, but a New Yorker oughta know the difference.

        @13tales: ::patting myself on the back for eating well and exercising:: No, but really. I did read the whole article, and I have no problem with grown-ups following any diet and/or fitness program they choose so long as they’re not hurting themselves. But when you decide your diet makes you better than those “common people”, as these folks seem to have done, that’s when I start sneering. I would much rather hang with a vegan, who probably has some ethical and/or environmental justification for their voluntary dietary restriction, than a paleo person who thinks they’re better than me because I eat grains. It isn’t the diet, it’s the douchiness.

  19. “‘I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do,’ Mr. Durant said.”

    Well the irony of this statement isn’t lost on one of us.

    1. Lolz: “I want a faddish diet of my very own, or failing that, one shared by only twenty to thirty others!”

      The nightshade-hater gets my props for sheer brazen craziness. Take that, Thomas Jefferson!

  20. “Mr. Durant, 26, who works in online advertising, is part of a small New York subculture whose members seek good health through a selective return to the habits of their Paleolithic ancestors.”

    Wow… I didn’t realize advertising had been around that long!!!!

    Seriously – I don’t know. I’m always wary of articles in the press that sensationalize this kind of thing -last year it was the whole freegans/dumpster divers now it’s neo-cavefolks, apparently. I tend to think that such articles are written in a way to make the people they are “objectively” reporting on sound absurd by “normal” standards. How is this any different than the counter-culture scare news reports, really?

    1. Let’s make it easier to understand: This article is in the NEW YORK Times, the guy works in advertising in NEW YORK. And if you know anything about the state of newspaper journalism nowadays, most reporters barely make an effort to fact-check or even research a piece.

      The conclusion: The reporter heard about this guy via some party, friend, while “in line at the dry cleaner” and pitched it to their editor and away we go!

      Past the specifics of this article—which are cringeworthy on their own—this is the kind of NY Times piece that makes non-New Yokers just hate New York. No wonder newspapers are dying.

  21. Let’s see…

    Paleolithic man’s life expectancy – 13 years.

    Post-Paleolithic man (10,000 –15.000 years ago) – 18 years

    Romans (275 B.C.) – 26 years

    Call me crazy, but I think I’ll pass.

    Anybody want anything from Mickey D’s? I heading out.

  22. “He explained that tomatoes are part of the nightshade family, arguing that they are native to the New World and could not have been part of humanity’s earliest diet.”

    Last time I checked humans did inhabit the “new world,” they were/are called native americans, but we wouldn’t want little details like this to get in the way of their lifestyle.

  23. I’ve been pretty much living that way for 9 years… Had no idea it was considered a movement of sorts.

    I don’t believe there is a single diet that works for everyone, but the so called ‘caveman’ lifestyle sure works for me. I always was intolerant to gluten, soy and processed foods, so living on mostly fresh meat, fish, nuts, fresh fruits and veggies feels fantastic. Sure, I’ll eat the occasional pizza, croissant or pasta if I really crave them (or if friends serve it to me: I don’t want to inconvenience them with special requests) but I don’t miss them as staple foods. I sure don’t miss the breakouts, bloating and fatigue. I also walk daily since I don’t have a car. I’ll never own one either.

    So while I don’t agree with the whole tribal, ‘us against them’ mentality these folks seem to espouse (they sound exactly like the militant vegans they look down upon), the lifestyle itself is worth exploring. If it suits your own body and you end up being healthier and feeling more energetic, there is no loss in trying.

  24. Raw meat? Welcome to the world of parasites! I guess they will have something in common with ancient man then (along with lots of modern poor people).

  25. My exercise consists of hunting down the members of urban paleo tribes like this one, which (obviously) means I’m on a fairly meat-intensive diet. I can’t donate blood because of various piercings, so I usually just pop a vein and spray it somewhere interesting, like The Gap.

    Not for everyone, but it works well for me.

  26. Well, at the end of the day, we’re reading the article, looking at their meetup pages, reacting to their posturing and helping to establish the new “paleo” meme. And that’s what’s important.

  27. Whether or not it is more healthy, which is a complex question itself, it seems to be impossible for everyone in the world to sustainably live in such a manner. The land can’t support that many animals to feed everyone. 90% of the energy is lost by eating an animal over a vegetable source of nutrients. It is the increasingly meat-based diets that is largely responsible for a great deal of environmental destruction. In the future, as peak oil hits, the energy scarce environment will give these folks quite a reality check.

    But this is also questionable from a health perspective. Suppose evolutionary pressures optimized human health and physical fitness for the short term gain in fitness (ability to reproduce) but then a fast deterioration into old age. It is possible that a more vegetarian diet, full of antioxidants, may still in the long run be healthier for a longer life. Since we are no longer trying to be fit from a paleolithic perspective and have technologies to improve our fitness in other ways (medicines, etc) then can trade short term physical fitness for longer lifespan and other benefits.

  28. Whether or not it is more healthy, which is a complex question itself, it seems to be impossible for everyone in the world to sustainably live in such a manner. The land can’t support that many animals to feed everyone. 90% of the energy is lost by eating an animal over a vegetable source of nutrients.

    On the other hand, if they fast as much as they claim, they probably end up eating less meat that the average North American by volume. They don’t seem to eat dairy products either (an average North American consumes something like 30lbs of cheese a year; most vegetarians I know eat dairy). Also, I didn’t get from the article that they ate mostly meat, just that they picked meat over breads and grain products (I could have misunderstood).

    Again, it might not be the best option for everyone to adopt (some people can’t digest meat well anyways), but it’s certainly not the worst.

  29. Humans did not evolve to thrive on a paleolithic diet, nor to fast for long periods, nor to … whatever. Humans evolved to survive widely varied diets and that is why the species was able to spread across space and time.

  30. I recently purchased Cordain’s ‘Paleo Diet’. Nowhere in the book does it recommend eating raw meat or fish. In fact it says quite emphatically that fish should never be eaten raw due to the risk of parasites.

    Obviously some of these guys have modified it to suit themselves but that’s not part of the original diet.

    While there is an emphasis on increased protein in the Paleo diet it also stresses the need for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. It can be summed up as so:

    Eat lots of lean meat and fish, fresh fruit and vegetables.

    Dont eat grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.

    I haven’t yet started it so I still have to see how it works out.

    Chupacabra: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy#Lifespan_variation_over_time

  31. Some claim that they no longer get sick.

    I never got sick when I was 26 either. Lets see how well the lifestyle works when they live with a toddler in day care. Its like rooming with a walking petri dish. Clears up any illusions about how bullet proof you are real fast.

  32. I’m seeing a lot of sneering in this comment thread.

    I have to wonder what proportion of the sneerers are people in good physical shape, and what proportion don’t exercise or eat well (definition of “well” highly variable, so lets say anyone who makes an active effort to eat healthfully, whatever your approach) – I don’t think anyone in the latter camp really has a leg to stand on, criticising these guys.

    I also have to wonder how many people read the article in full – a more thorough reading might reveal that some of the points being held up to ridicule (raw-food, “scooting around on all fours”), are extreme examples, and not necessarily representative of this group/movement as a whole.

    If you’re in good shape, and you did read the article attentively, well give yourself a pat on the back. But I’m still not sure why you’d sneer – people following a paleo diet/exercise regime are making a solid effort to improve to improve their health and vitality by (non-standard) means that make sense to them. Most of them seem like reasonably intelligent people. Since when is this call for sneering? Oh…right. Internet.

    (Not a paleo follower myself, if that’s relevant to you. I like my grains and legumes.)

  33. I really dig the neolithic glasses the girl in the photo wears. As for not getting sick, at the risk of Godwinning this thread, I’m reminded of something Primo Levi remarked about concentration camp life. Namely that in all the hardship people suffered, nobody ever got the flu or a cold. Stressing the body apparently cuts down the risk of mild disease. Of course this seems to come at the price of reduced health in later years (those same concentration camp inmates had a higher risk of cancer later in life compared to their peers), so I’ll risk having the sniffles for now thanks.

  34. The notion that prehistoric people only lived into their 30s is pure bunk. I wrote about it at Psychology Today yesterday (link via my profile, if you’re interested). Still, this prehistoric diet stuff is absurd. First, which prehistoric people are we talking about? Diets differed greatly in desert, jungle, savannah, polar regions, and so on 30,000 years ago. Secondly, where are the bugs and rodents? Prehistoric people ate a lot of both. Third, fire and cooking were in use hundreds of thousands of years ago — if not millions. And beef (even raw, grass-fed beef) is very different from wildebeest or whatever this idiot thinks he’s replicating.

  35. I’ve been eating raw meat since I was a toddler. My mother says I would steal hamburger scraps when she was preparing dinner before I was old enough to talk. I like the smell and taste of raw red meat, preferably cow or bison but venison is good too.

    I discovered the pleasures of raw fish a decade or two ago when sashimi became available in my area. I eat it a lot now, even more than raw beef.

    Never had an intestinal parasite yet. I probably do check more frequently than most people, though, since I’m aware of the dangers.

    It seems the majority of people who get worms are dog owners, and not necessarily raw meat eaters. At least that’s what my doctor says.

    I think pushy carnivores would be just as bad as the pushy vegetarians are. I am really tired of the “eating meat is bad for the planet” self-serving nonsense, but I wouldn’t want to replace it with paleo drivel.

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