Puneet Varma (Editor)

Longevity myths

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Longevity myths

Longevity myths are traditions about long-lived people (generally supercentenarians), either as individuals or groups of people, and practices that have been believed to confer longevity, but for which scientific evidence does not support the ages claimed or the reasons for the claims. While literal interpretations of such myths may appear to indicate extraordinarily long lifespans, many scholars believe such figures may be the result of incorrect translation of numbering systems through various languages coupled by the cultural and or symbolic significance of certain numbers.

Contents

The phrase "longevity tradition" may include "purifications, rituals, longevity practices, meditations, and alchemy" that have been believed to confer greater human longevity, especially in Chinese culture.

Modern science indicates various ways in which genetics, diet, and lifestyle affect human longevity. It also allows us to determine the age of human remains with a fair degree of precision.

Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible, the Torah, Joshua, Job, and 2 Chronicles mention individuals with lifespans up to the 969 years of Methuselah.

Some explain these extreme ages as ancient mistranslations that converted the word "month" to "year", mistaking lunar cycles for solar ones: this would turn an age of 969 "years" into a more reasonable 969 lunar months, or 78½ years of the Metonic cycle.

Donald Etz says that the Genesis 5 numbers were multiplied by ten by a later editor. These interpretations introduce an inconsistency as the ages of the first nine patriarchs at fatherhood, ranging from 62 to 230 years in the manuscripts, would then be transformed into an implausible range such as 5 to 18½ years. Others say that the first list, of only 10 names for 1,656 years, may contain generational gaps, which would have been represented by the lengthy lifetimes attributed to the patriarchs. Nineteenth-century critic Vincent Goehlert suggests the lifetimes "represented epochs merely, to which were given the names of the personages especially prominent in such epochs, who, in consequence of their comparatively long lives, were able to acquire an exalted influence."

Others maintain a literal reading of the text and provide theological explanations for the advanced ages of the early patriarchs. In one view man was originally to have everlasting life, but as sin was introduced into the world by Adam, its influence became greater with each generation and God progressively shortened man's life. In a second view, before Noah's flood, a "firmament" over the earth (Genesis 1:6–8) contributed to people's advanced ages.

Abraham's wife Sarah is the only woman in the Old Testament whose age is given. She was 127 (Genesis 23:1).

Buddhism

  • LP Suwang (died 1995) was a Buddhist who entered Thailand in the 1920s. He was supposedly capable of miracles, and no one knew his exact age, not even his closest disciples. He died in 1995, at a claimed 200 years old, but was rumored to be over 500 years old. The newest version claimed his birth as being in 1551, making him 444 years old. His age remains a mystery.
  • Christianity

  • Saint Servatius, bishop of Tongeren, died 13 May 384 according to consistent tradition. He was consecrated at the alleged age of 297, and is said to have lived for 375 years (birth 8/9 AD).
  • Around 1912, the Maharishi of Kailas was said by missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh to be an over-300-year-old Christian hermit in a Himalayan mountain cave with whom he spent some time in deep fellowship. Singh said the Maharishi was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and baptized by the nephew of St. Francis Xavier.
  • Scolastica Oliveri is said to have lived in Bivona, Italy, 1448–1578 (age 129/130), according to the archive of Monastero di San Paolo in Bivona located in Palermo.
  • Falun Gong

    Chapter 2 of Falun Gong by Li Hongzhi (2001) states, "A person in Japan named Mitsu Taira lived to be 242 years old. During the Tang Dynasty in our country, there was a monk called Hui Zhao [慧昭, 526–815] who lived to be 290 [288/289] years old. According to the county annals of Yong Tai in Fujian Province, Chen Jun [陈俊] was born in the first year of Zhong He time (881 AD) under the reign of Emperor Xi Zong during the Tang Dynasty. He died in the Tai Ding time of the Yuan Dynasty (1325 AD), after living for 444 years."

    Hinduism

    Like Methuselah in Judaism, Bhishma among the Hindus is believed to have lived to a very advanced age and is a metaphor for immortality. His life spans four generations and considering that he fought for his great-nephews in the Mahabharata War who were themselves in their 70s and 80s, it is estimated that Bhishma must have been between 130 and 370 years old at the time of his death.

  • Devraha Baba–(1990) was rumored to be over 700 or even over 750 years old.
  • Trailanga Swami reportedly lived in Kashi since 1737; the journal Prabuddha Bharata puts his birth around 1607 and his age 279 (almost 280), upon his death in 1887. His birth is also given as 1527 (age 359/360).
  • The sadhaka Lokenath Brahmachari reportedly lived 1730–1890 (age 159/160).
  • Shivapuri Baba, also known as Swami Govindanath Bharati, was a Hindu saint who purportedly lived from 1826 to 1963, making him allegedly 137 years old at the time of his death. He had 18 audiences with Queen Victoria.
  • Islam

    According to 19th-century scholars, Abdul Azziz al-Hafeed al-Habashi (عبد العزيزالحبشي) lived 673/674 Gregorian years or 694/695 Islamic years, from 581–1276 of the Hijra.

    In Twelver Shiism, Muhammad al-Mahdi is believed to currently be in hiding (Major Occultation) and still alive.

    Jainism

    Extreme lifespans are ascribed to the Tirthankaras, For instance, Neminatha was said to have lived for over 10,000 years before his ascension, Naminatha was said to have lived for over 20,000 years before his ascension, Munisuvrata was said to have lived for over 30,000 years before his ascension, Māllīnātha was said to have lived for over 56,000 years before his ascension, Aranatha was said to have lived for over 84,000 years before his ascension, Kunthunatha was said to have lived for over 100,000 years before his ascension, and Shantinatha was said to have lived even for over 700,000 years before his ascension.

    Theosophy/New Age

  • Babaji is said to be an "Unascended Master" purportedly many centuries old and is claimed to live in the Himalayas. The Hindu guru Paramhansa Yogananda claimed to have met him and was supposedly one of his disciples.
  • Ashwatthama, one of the heroes of Mahabharatha, is said to have lived for over 6,000 years and is said to be still alive.
  • Ancient extreme longevity claims

    These include claims prior to approximately 150 CE, before the fall of the Roman empire.

    China

  • Guan Chen Czi, according to legend, lived for over 1,400 years.
  • Fu Xi (伏羲) was supposed to have lived for 197 years.
  • Lucian wrote about the "Seres" (a Chinese people), claiming they lived for over 300 years.
  • Zuo Ci who lived during the Three Kingdoms Period was said to have lived for 300 years.
  • In Chinese legend, Peng Zu was believed to have lived for over 800 years during the Yin Dynasty (殷朝, 16th to 11th centuries BC).
  • In traditional Daoism, the Eight Immortals are said to exist, and legendary have lived for over 14,000 years before their ascensions.
  • Greece

    A book Macrobii ("Long-livers") is a work devoted to longevity. It was attributed to the ancient Greek author Lucian, although it is now accepted that he could not have written it. Most examples given in it are lifespans of 80 to 100 years, but some are much longer:

  • Tiresias, the blind seer of Thebes, over 600 years.
  • Nestor lived over 300 years.
  • Members of the "Seres" over 300 years.
  • Japan

    Some early emperors of Japan ruled for more than a century, according to the tradition documented in the Kojiki, viz., Emperor Jimmu and Emperor Kōan.

  • Emperor Jimmu (traditionally, 13 February 711 BC – 11 March 585 BC) lived 126 years according to the Kojiki. These dates correspond to 126 years, 27 days, on the proleptic Julian and Gregorian calendars. However, the form of his posthumous name suggests that it was invented in the reign of Kanmu (782–806), or possibly during the time in which legends about the origins of the Yamato dynasty were compiled into the Kojiki.
  • Korea

  • Taejo of Goguryeo (46/47 – 165) is generally accepted as having reigned in Korea for 93 years beginning at age 7. After his retirement, the Samguk Sagi and Samguk Yusa give his age at death as 118.
  • Persian empire

    The reigns of several shahs in the Shahnameh, an epic poem by Ferdowsi, are given as longer than a century:

  • Zahhak, 1,000 years.
  • Jamshid, 700 years.
  • Fereydun, 500 years.
  • Askani, 200 years.
  • Kay Kāvus, 150 years.
  • Manuchehr, 120 years.
  • Lohrasp, 120 years.
  • Goshtasp, 120 years.
  • Roman empire

    In Roman times, Pliny wrote about longevity records from the census carried out in 74 AD under Vespasian. In one region of Italy many people allegedly lived past 100; four were said to be 130, others even older. The ancient Greek author Lucian is the presumed author of Macrobii (long-livers), a work devoted to longevity. Most of the examples Lucian gives are what would be regarded as normal long lifespans (80–100 years).

  • Tiresias, the blind seer of Thebes, was alive for over 600 years (Lucian).
  • Nestor lived over 300 years (Lucian).
  • According to one tradition, Epimenides of Crete (7th, 6th centuries BC) lived nearly 300 years.
  • Sumer

    Age claims for the earliest eight Sumerian kings in the major recension of the Sumerian King List were in units and fractions of shar (3,600 years) and totaled 67 shar or 241,200 years.

    In the only ten-king tablet recension of this list three kings (Alalngar, [...]kidunnu, and En-men-dur-ana) are recorded as having reigned 72,000 years each. The major recension assigns 43,200 years to the reign of En-men-lu-ana, and 36,000 years each to those of Alalngar and Dumuzid.

    Vietnam

    The first 18 Hùng kings of Vietnam were reported to live at least over 200 years each. Their reigns lasted from 2879 BC to 258 BC.

    1. Kinh Dương Vương – 260 years old – Reign: 215 years.
    2. Lạc Long Quân (Hùng Hiền Vương) – 506 years old – Reign: 400 years.
    3. Hùng Quốc Vương – 260 years old – Reign: 221 years.
    4. Hùng Diệp Vương  – 646 years old – Reign: 300 years.
    5. Hùng Hy Vương – 599 years old – Reign: 200 years.
    6. Hùng Huy Vương – 500 years old – Reign: 87 years.
    7. Hùng Chiêu Vương – 692 years old -Reign: 200 years.
    8. Hùng Vi Vương – 642 years old – Reign: 100 years.
    9. Hùng Định Vương – 602 years old – Reign: 80 years.
    10. Hùng Uý Vương – 512 years old – Reign: 90 years.
    11. Hùng Chinh Vương – 514 years old -Reign:107 years.
    12. Hùng Vũ Vương – 456 years old – Reign: 96 years.
    13. Hùng Việt Vương – 502 years old – Reign: 105 years.
    14. Hùng Ánh Vương – 386 years old – Reign: 99 years.
    15. Hùng Triều Vương – 286 years old -Reign: 94 years.
    16. Hùng Tạo Vương – 273 years old – Reign: 92 years.
    17. Hùng Nghị Vương – 217 years old – Reign: 160 years.
    18. Hùng Duệ Vương – 221 years old – Reign: 150 years.

    Burma

  • Billafunda (Siddha) Sayadaw U.Kowida (born in 908).
  • Poland

  • Piast Kołodziej, king of Poland, died in 861 at the alleged age of 120 (birth 740/741).
  • Wales

  • Welsh bard Llywarch Hen (Heroic Elegies) died c. 500 in the parish of Llanvor, traditionally about age 150.
  • Modern extreme longevity claims

    These include longevity claims made in a country or region in the modern era, ordered alphabetically by country or region.

    Afghanistan

  • Khanum Hasno (1877 - 12 January 2013)
  • Algeria

  • Mubarak Rahmani Messe (1874 – 11 January 2014) died in 2014, allegedly at 140 years of age, in El Oued Province, Algeria, and was survived by 100 grandsons. According to family members, Rahmani had spent much of his early life in the Algerian Desert and later held various challenging occupations, including in construction, farming and herding. He was hospitalised for the first time in 2012, with a stomach complaint. His diet, referred to as "natural", consisted largely of dates, wheat flour, sheep's milk, and green tea.
  • Argentina

  • The London Chronicle on 5 September 1785, reported the history of Louisa Truxo, who supposedly lived until the age of 175 years (1610?–1785).
  • Azerbaijan

  • Shirali Muslimov was an Azerbaijani shepherd with Talysh ethnicity from the village of Barzavu in the Lerik region of Azerbaijan, a mountainous area near the Iranian border. He claimed to be the oldest person who ever lived when he died on September 2, 1973 at the alleged age of 168. This is 46 years older than French woman Jeanne Calment, who had the longest confirmed lifespan in history at 122.
  • Botswana

  • Ntame Zambezi (1880 - 13 July 2011)
  • China

  • A New York Times story announced the death on 5 May 1933 in Kai Xian, Sichuan, at the age of 197, of the Republic of China's Li Ching-Yuen (李青云, Li Qing Yun), who claimed to be born in 1736. A Time article noted that "respectful Chinese preferred to think" Li was 150 in 1827 (birth 1677), based on a government congratulatory message, and died at age 256. T'ai chi ch'uan master Da Liu stated that Li learned qigong from a hermit over age 500.
  • Colombia

  • Javier Pereira, (1789 - 1955-58), was a Zenú Indian from Colombia[2] who was reputedly over 160 years old at the time of his death. Although his death is variously said to have been in 1955, 1956, and 1958, sources all claim that he was born in 1789.
  • Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Cécilé Tshibola (1880 - 18 December 2010)
  • Ethiopia

  • Dhaqabo Ebba (c.1853–10 May 2015) was a farmer living in Oromia, Ethiopia and, being over 160 years old, purported to be the World's Oldest Person. He claimed to remember the 1895 Italian invasion of Ethiopia and that at the time he had 2 wives and a son old enough to herd cattle. Prior to his death, he laid claim to the largest extended family in his region and had allegedly seen his great-grandchildren into adulthood. He died at 11:30 pm on 10 May 2015, at the supposed age of 163 years, survived by, among others, an allegedly 128-year-old son, Ahmed Daqabo (b.1886/7). Like most rural Ethiopians, Ebba did not possess a birth certificate and his age cannot, therefore, be verified.
  • Georgia

  • Anton Pilya (1830 - 1965)
  • Antisa Khvichava, (8 July 1880 - 30 September 2012)
  • Ghana

  • The Kanjaga king, Azantilo of Sandema
  • Opanyin Kwaku Addae (25 December 1851 - 2011?)
  • Hungary

  • Netherlands envoy Hamelbraning reported in 1724 of the death in Rofrosh, Hungary, on January 5 of Peter Czartan, reportedly born 1539 and age 184. Charles Hulbert, who reported Czartan's case in an 1825 collection, added that John (172) and his wife Sara (164) both died in Hungary in 1741 after 148 years of marriage. The Book Validation of Exceptional Longevity has the old couples last name as Rowin, while The Virgin Birth And The Incarnation puts John and Sara's married name as Rovin.
  • India

  • Mahashta Murasi (6 June 1835?)
  • Indonesia

  • Mbah Gotho (born 31 December 1870)
  • Kazakhstan

  • Sahan Dosova, (27 March 1879 - 9 May 2009)
  • Kenya

  • Mzee Barnabas Kiptanui Arap Rop (1879 - 8 March 2012)
  • Lebanon

  • Ali Mohammed Hussein (1862 - 1997)
  • Liberia

  • Klayonoh Bleaorplue (7 March 1863 - 2 August 2016)
  • Malaysia

  • Omar Abas (26 September 1857 - 2001)
  • Morocco

  • Aisha Heddou (born 1885)
  • Nepal

  • Bir Narayan Chaudhary (1856–1998) reportedly lived to age 142, though he had no birth certificate to authenticate this because such documents did not exist in rural Nepal at the time of his reported birth. However, in 1998 King Birendra of Nepal recognized and honored the elderly resident of the small Tharu village of Aamjhoki in Nepal's Tarai region as the oldest man in the kingdom. His age of 142 was meticulously verified by Nepal's Ministry of Archaeology based on astrological charts made at the time of his birth.
  • Nigeria

  • Mama Esifiho (born 1824/1825?)
  • James Olofintuyi (born 16 August 1844?)
  • Pa Aki Onoforere (1839 - 2009)
  • Gabriel Umeh Enemuo (1864 - 28 April 2015)
  • Wordu Grace Wamanda (May 1869 - October 2014)
  • Alhaji Abdu Sikola (1880 - 26 April 2015)
  • Oman

  • Mohammed bin Masoud (1861 - 27 February 2014)
  • Bashir Al Saalmi (1873 - 5 June 2010)
  • Pakistan

  • A 1973 National Geographic article on longevity reported, as a very aged people, the Burusho or Hunza people in the Hunza Valley of the mountains of Pakistan.
  • Feroz-ud-Din Mir (10 March 1872 - 29 August 2014)
  • Philippines

  • Felix Bocobo (3 October 1833 – 16 October 1963)
  • Romania

  • Maftei Pop (12 June 1804 - 15 March 1952)
  • Russia (Soviet Union)

    Deaths officially reported in Russia in 1815 listed 1068 centenarians, including 246 supercentenarians (50 at age 120–155 and one even older). Time magazine considered that, by the Soviet Union, longevity had elevated to a state-supported "Methuselah cult". The USSR insisted on its citizens' unrivaled longevity by claiming 592 people (224 male, 368 female) over age 120 in a 15 January 1959 census and 100 citizens of Russia alone ages 120 to 156 in March 1960. Such later claims were fostered by Georgian-born Joseph Stalin's apparent hope that he would live long past 70. Zhores A. Medvedev, who demonstrated that all 500-plus claims failed birth-record validation and other tests, said Stalin "liked the idea that [other] Georgians lived to be 100".

  • An early 1812 Russian Petersburgh Gazette reports a man between ages 200 and 225 in the diocese of Ekaterinoslaw (now Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine).
  • Shirali Muslimov (26 March 1805? – 4 September 1973), of Barzavu, Azerbaijan, in the Caucasus mountains, was allegedly age 168 years, 162 days, based solely on a passport. National Geographic carried the claim. The oldest woman in the USSR according to the Novosti Press Agency was supposed to have been Ashura Omarova from Daghestan, aged 195.
  • Sarhat Rashidova (1875–2007) claimed to be 131.
  • Saudi Arabia

  • Mohammed bin Zarei (1858/1859 – 2013)
  • Solomon Islands

  • Maritina Vangatala (born 1879)
  • South Africa

  • Moloko Temo (4 July 1874 - 3 September 2009)
  • Sweden

    Swedish death registers contain detailed information on thousands of centenarians going back to 1749; the maximum age at death reported between 1751 and 1800 was 147.

  • Jon Andersson, (18 February 1582 - 18 April 1729)
  • Switzerland

    Swiss anatomist Albrecht von Haller collected examples of 62 people ages 110–120, 29 ages 120–130, and 15 ages 130–140.

    Turkey

  • Halime Olcay (1 July 1874)
  • United Arab Emirates

  • Ali bin Abdullah bin Ezab (1866 - 14 December 2006)
  • United Kingdom

    Cases of extreme longevity were listed by James Easton in 1799, who covered 1712 cases documented between 66 BCE and 1799, the year of publication; Charles Hulbert also edited a book containing a list of cases in 1825. Some extreme longevity claims include:

  • The Shoreditch burial register for 28 January 1588 reads "Aged 207 years. Holywell Street. Thomas Cam" or "Carn", which supplied a traditional birth year of 1381. According to Old and New London, "the 2 should probably be 1". Chapter 2 of Falun Gong by Li Hongzhi (2001) states, "According to records, there was a person in Britain named Femcath who lived for 207 years."
  • A brief biography of Henry Jenkins, of Ellerton-on-Swale, Yorkshire, was written by Anne Saville in 1663 based on Jenkins's description, stating birth in 1501; he also claimed to recall the 1513 Battle of Flodden Field. However, Jenkins also testified in 1667, in favor of Charles Anthony in a court case against Calvert Smythson, that he was then only 157 or thereabouts. He was born in Bolton-on-Swale, and the date given, 17 May 1500, results in only a 1-year discrepancy with the age of 169 on his monument (he died 8 December 1670).
  • A tombstone in Cachen churchyard near Cardiff, Glamorganshire, read, "Heare lieth the body of WILLIAM EDWARDS, of the Cairey, who departed this life the 24th of February, Anno Domini 1668, anno aetatis suae one hundred and sixty-eight".
  • Joseph Surrington was reported as 160 (1637–1797).
  • The parish registers of Church Minshull, in the county of Chester, state, "1649 Thomas Damme of Leighton. Buried the 20th of February, being of the age of Seven-score and fourteen" (154 years), signed by vicar T. Holford and wardens T. Kennerly and John Warburton.
  • A tombstone in Brislington, Bristol, reads, "1542 THOMAS NEWMAN AGED 153 This Stone was new faced in the Year 1771 to Perpetuate the Great Age of the Deceased."
  • Mrs. Eckleston of Philipstown, King's County, was stated to be 143 (1548–1691).
  • Margaret Patten reportedly died in 1739 age 137.
  • Peter Torton reportedly died at the age 185 years in 1724.
  • Welsh bard Llywarch Hen (Heroic Elegies) died c. 500 in the parish of Llanvor, traditionally about age 150.
  • Thomas Parr is recorded by Easton as having died in 1635 at 152, the case having been recorded in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. William Harvey carried out a postmortem on him, according to Easton. Parr is buried in Westminster Abbey with his alleged age on the gravestone.
  • Chesten Marchant, who is said to have been the last monolingual speaker of Cornish, died in 1676 at Gwithian, Cornwall. She is reported to have reached the age of 164 by one source (the claim apparently going back to either William Scawen or, according to Henry Jenner, to William Borlase).
  • United States of America

    A periodical The Aesculapian Register, written by physicians and published in Philadelphia in 1824, listed a number of cases, including several purported to have lived over 130. The authors said the list was taken from the Dublin Magazine.

  • Charlie Smith, who died October 5, 1979, claimed to have been born in 1842, which would have made him the oldest person in the United States. Prior to Smith's death, the Guinness Book of World Records had called his claim into question, noting that Smith's marriage certificate from 1910 stated that he was 35 years old at the time, which would make him 104 years old at the time of his death.
  • According to the July 20, 1876 New York Times, a man arrested in Newark, NJ named Colestein Veglin claimed to be 615 years old and to have 6 wives, all living. Following this proclamation, he was taken to an insane asylum for two days.
  • Uzbekistan

  • Tuti Yusupova was allegedly born on 1 July 1880, and died on 28 March 2015, at 134 years and 274 days.
  • Venezuela

  • Josefa Molina Lantz (30 April 1831 - 2006?)
  • Yemen

  • Abdel Wali Numan is said to have lived 142 years (1865–2007).
  • Diets

    The idea that certain diets can lead to extraordinary longevity (ages beyond 130) is not new. In 1909, Élie Metchnikoff believed that drinking goat's milk could confer extraordinary longevity. The Hunza diet, supposedly practiced in an area of northern Pakistan, has been claimed to give people the ability to live to 140 or more. There has been no proof that any diet has led humans to live longer than the genetically-recognized maximum however Caloric restriction diets have increased lifespans of rodents significantly.

    Alchemy

    Traditions that have been believed to confer greater human longevity include alchemy.

  • Nicolas Flamel (early 1330s – 1418?) was a 14th-century scrivener who developed a reputation as alchemist and creator of an "elixir of life" that conferred immortality upon himself and his wife Perenelle. His arcanely inscribed tombstone is preserved at the Musée de Cluny in Paris.
  • Fridericus (Ludovicus) Gualdus (Federico Gualdi), author of "Revelation of the True Chemical Wisdom", lived in Venice in the 1680s. His age was reported in a letter in a contemporary Dutch newspaper to be over 400. By some accounts, when asked about a portrait he carried, he said it was of himself, painted by Titian (who died in 1576), but gave no explanation and left Venice the following morning. By another account, Gualdus left Venice due to religious accusations and died in 1724. The "Compass der Weisen" alludes to him as still alive in 1782 and nearly 600 years old.
  • Fountain of Youth

    The Fountain of Youth reputedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters. The New Testament, following older Jewish tradition, attributes healing to the Pool of Bethesda when the waters are "stirred" by an angel. Herodotus attributes exceptional longevity to a fountain in the land of the Ethiopians. The lore of the Alexander Romance and of Al-Khidr describes such a fountain, and stories about the philosopher's stone, universal panaceas, and the elixir of life are widespread.

    After the death of Juan Ponce de León, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés wrote in Historia General y Natural de las Indias (1535) that Ponce de León was looking for the waters of Bimini to cure his aging.

    References

    Longevity myths Wikipedia


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