Abraham and Angels

Did Ancient People Really Have Lifespans Longer Than 200 Years?

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The Shahnameh or Shahnama (“The Book of Kings”) is a Persian epic poem written by Ferdowsi around the end of the 10th century A.D. It tells of kings reigning 1,000 years, several hundred years, down to 150 years, and so on.

Depiction of Laozi in E.T.C. Werner's Myths and Legends of China

Depiction of Laozi in E.T.C. Werner's Myths and Legends of China (Public Domain). Laozi was said to have gone to live as a hermit at the age of 160.

Modern Claims of Longevity

Even today, people report lifespans of some 150 or more years. These reports often come from rural areas, however, where documentation is scant. Documentation was probably even less valued in rural communities more than a century ago, making it harder to prove such claims.

One example is that of Bir Narayan Chaudhary in Nepal. In 1996, Vijay Jung Thapa visited Chaudhary in Tharu village of Aamjhoki in the Tarai region. Chaudhary told him he was 141 years old,  Thapa wrote in an article for India Today. If this claim was true, Chaudhary trumped the Guinness World Record holder for the longest life ever recorded by almost 20 years.

A photograph of Bir Narayan Chaudhary

A photograph of Bir Narayan Chaudhary. Image source: thedogintheclouds.com

But Chaudhary didn’t have the papers to prove it. He did, however, have collective village memory.

“Almost all the elders around remember their youth when Chaudhary (already an elder) would talk about working in the first Nepal survey of 1888,” Thapa wrote. “Village logic goes that he must have been more than 21 then, since the survey was a responsible job. Chaudhary claims to have been 33 and still a stubborn bachelor.”

Many people in the Caucasus region of Russia similarly claim ages reaching even over 170 years without the documentation to back their claims.

Dr. Hou wrote: “These exceptionally long-lived people have invariably lived humble lives, doing hard physical work or exercise, often outdoors, from youth well into old age. Their diet is simple, as is their social life involving families. One example is Shisali Mislinlow who lived to be 170 years old and gardened in the Azerbaijan region in Russia. Mislinlow’s life was never hurried. He said, ‘I am never in a hurry, so don’t be in a hurry to live, this is the main idea. I have been doing physical labor for 150 years.’”

A photo of Shisali Mislinlow

A photo of Shisali Mislinlow taken in 1970. ( Wikipedia)

A Matter of Faith?

The issue of longevity in ancient times has long been connected to Taoist practices of internal alchemy, or mind-body cultivation, in China. Here, longevity was connected with virtue. Likewise it is intertwined with Western spiritual beliefs as part of the Bible.

Mendez quoted first century Roman-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus: “Now when Noah had lived three hundred and fifty years after the Flood … But let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives, and with the few years which we now live, think that what we have said of them is false; or make the shortness of our lives at present an argument, that neither did they attain to so long a duration of life, for those ancients were beloved of God, and [lately] made by God himself; and because their food was then fitter for the prolongation of life, might well live so great a number of years: and besides, God afforded them a longer time of life on account of their virtue, and the good use they made of it.”

For now, modern scientists are left either to believe what ancient records and village memory have to say about seemingly unbelievable lifespans, or to consider the accounts exaggerations, symbolism, or misunderstandings. For many, it’s simply a matter of faith.

The article ‘ Did Ancient People Really Have Lifespans Longer Than 200 Years ?’ was originally published on The Epoch Times and has been republished with permission.

Featured image: ‘Abraham and the Angels’ by Aert de Gelder ( Wikipedia). Abraham was said to have lived to the age of 175.

Comments

I am pretty sure that there are medical ways to verify someone''s age.

Tsurugi's picture

They only work by comparison. AFAIK there is no absolute test for age.

Not absolutely as stated. Most modern ways go by bone growth which is based on expected transition from youth, followed by bone wear and cellular degeneration. All of these are modeled on empirical data from known examples, nothing is based on projections by some scientific method. Essentially aside from modern times, theres no way to know how old people truly were in the past because we are basing the age estimates on our own modern examples. It would be effectively like comparing erosion on another planet based on erosion on earth. Its a good 'model' to follow but by no means does it allow for factors we dont understand, know about, or know how to account for.

Cut of his legs and count the rings.

What an amazing resource to bring knowledge and speculation together.

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