(Investigator 143, 2012 March)

Claude Choules of Australia died in 2011 aged 110. For a list of 964 genuine "Supercentenarians" to 2007, i.e. people who lived to 110 or longer, and others alive now, see the website:

The oldest is Jeanne Calment of France who died at 122. She and Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper (115) are mentioned in Neurobiology of Aging. (Volume 29, p. 1127) Their ages and 962 others who died aged between 110 and 121 are credible.

How credible are most other reports of people living beyond 120 years? For example:
Hohua Ahowhenua (1765-1889) of Matamata Plains, New Zealand, in accordance with tribal custom after having tilled his fields until the age of 122 was abandoned in a deserted village to starve. He lived to the age of 124 by capturing and eating peacocks.
(Ripley's Giant Believe It or Not! 1985)

Thomas Parr was born in the County of Salopp, England in 1483 A.D. and died in 1635 A.D. —  152 Years! Thomas Parr lived a vigorous, active life and married his first wife when he was 80-years old, and his second in 1605 when aged 122. He fathered his first child when he was over 130 years old. After Parr's death, an English doctor named William Harvey (he discovered the circulation of blood) was hired by King Charles to perform an autopsy to find out why Thomas Parr lived so long. Dr. Harvey's autopsy report…says all of Parr's organs were in perfect condition and, his colon was as clean and healthy as that of a child!

Brazilian Maria do Carmo was the world's oldest woman when she died at 129 this week.
(The Advertiser 2000, June 17, p32)


Table 1 below of long-lived people is from Chapter 3 of The Seed (1980) by anthropologist/theologian Arthur C. Custance (1910-1985).

Many websites naively reproduce Custance's list and even include individuals he left unnamed and listed as "Gentleman", "A Peasant", "A Negress" and "Unnamed Lady". I've deleted all unnamed ones from the table and also those aged below 110.
Custance includes some people of Vilcabamba. The Advertiser (1973, February 12) reported on "Shangri-la" in Ecuador in a mountain valley known as Vilcabamba: "the valley's oldest inhabitants were 142-year-old Jose David and 123-year-old Miguel Carpio." An earlier report about centenarians in Vilcabamba appeared in National Geographic 1973, January.

In 1978, however, the longevity claims were exposed as a scam to promote tourism. The locals had fooled reporters by pretending that the names of fathers or grandfathers in church baptism records were their own.

Other researchers reported centenarian communities in the Soviet Union, Mexico, Pakistan, and other Asian countries.  Custance says that the Soviet Union census of 1959 counted 578 people aged over 120 years! Again fraud cannot be ruled out. Some were probably cases of sons or grandsons who, decades earlier, had taken their father's or grandfather's identity to escape military service.   

The apparent married couple in Table 1, Iwan and Elizabeth Yorath (1465-1621 & 1491-1668), are also mentioned in The Bible Comes Alive (5th edition 1940) by Sir Charles Marston as evidence for the longevity of Bible characters.

Table 2 is based on Fortean Times (FT) and Ripley's Believe It or Not! (R) and lists some of the people who achieved longevity notoriety after Custance was published or which he otherwise omitted.

Custance's list includes Attila the Hun and gives his age at death from haemorrhage as 124. Attila led armies of marauding Huns into Greece, Hungary, France and Italy and he married a Burgundian princess just before he died. Excessive vigorous activity in his 120s such as horse-riding, fighting battles, and sex with a princess can theoretically account for his sudden death. Chambers Biographical Dictionary, however, says Attila lived 406-453CE — a mere 47 years.

Custance is uncritical of all extreme-longevity claims including the Vilcabamba claims, and he also writes: "Pliny records from a census of 76 A.D. in the days of Emperor Vespasian that there were living in the valley between the Apennines and the Po River 124 persons over the age of 100, two of whom were 135, four were 137, and three were 140."

Li Chang-Yun, the oldest person Custance listed, was reported in The New York Times (1933, May 6) which stated he was a resident of Kaihsien in the Province of Szechwan, had outlived 23 wives, and: "In 1930…Professor Wu Chung-chien, dean of the department of Education in Minkuo University, had found records showing Li was born in 1677 and that Imperial Chinese Government congratulated him on his 150th and 200th birthdays…"

A useful website listing "Supercentenarians" is mentioned in my introduction, and that website stops with Jeanne Calment who died aged 122. Every claim above 122 should be considered very dubious.

Table 1  (Based on Custance chapter 3)

Astana Shlarba  Georgia, USSR 1966 110
Elizabeth Lambe West Indies 1830 110
Thomas Robinson Ontario, Canada
Ada Roe England 1970
Jim Ho Canada 1976 111
John Turner England 1968 111
Spencer Church Ontario, Canada 1961 111
Caesar Paul Ontario, Canada 1975 112
Josef  Mittelstadt Prussia 1792 112
Annie Firlotte New Brunswick, Canada 1954 113
Arma Darendonian France 1972 113
Francis Hongo Venice 1702 113
Gabriel Sanchez Vilcabamba 1976 113
Amina Orujeva Azerbaijan, USSR 1967 114
Zibeida Sheidayeva Azerbaijan, USSR 1974 114
Johnny Murtee Australia 1976 115
Teb Sharmat Abkhasia, USSR 1966 115
Walter Williams Texas, USA 1959 117
Mary Mills West Indies 1805 118
Jane Morgan Jamaica 1830 120
Mary Goodsall Jamaica 1820 120
Mr. C. Cotterel
Philadelphia, USA
1760? 120
Charles Layne Virginia, USA 1821 121
Mrs Gray Kent, England
1770 121
Rev. Toby Crosby Florida, USA 1976 122
Sabir Kurbonadaov Tajik Republic, USSR 1973 122
Demetrius Liondos
Greece 1970 123
John Gilley Maine, USA 1813 123
Noah Raby New Jersey, USA 1895 123
Attila, the Hun Germany 453 124
Francisco Rubjo Mexico 1943 124
Thomas Wishart Scotland 1760 124
Sylvester Magee Missouri, USA 196? 126
Mary Yates England 1776
Miguel Carpio Vilcabamba 1976 127
Eglebert Hoff New York, USA 1764 128
Balakishi Orujeva Azerbaijan, USSR 1967 130
Ephriam Zithundu Zulu South Africa 1975 130
Francis Peat Jamaica 1830 130
Margaret Darby Jamaica 1821 130
Ramonotowane Seran Bechuanaland 1945 130
Peter Garden Scotland
Gabriel Erazo
Vilcabamba 1976 132
Mathayo Achungo Kenya 1976
Charlie Smith Florida, USA 1976 133
Beim Mekraliyeva Azerbaijan, USSR 1966 134
Henry Francisco New York, USA 1820 134
Anton Pilya Georgia, USSR 1965 135
Nicholas Petours Germany 1775? 137
Juan Moroygota Columbia 1828 138
Lasuria Khfaf Azerbaijan, USSR 1974 140
Meclahig Agayev Azerbaijan, USSR 1976 140
William Hotchluss St. Louis, USA 1895 140
Jose David Vilcabamba 1973 142
Hilario Pari Peru   
1807? 143
Jean Effingham Cornwall, England 1757 144
Countess of Desmond England 1619 145
Joseph Bam Jamaica 1821 146
Bridget Devine England
1845 147
C. J. Drakenberg Denmark 1772 150
Catherine Hiatt Jamaica 1831 150
Mahmoud Nivazov Azerbaijan, USSR 1959 150
G. Stanley England 1719 151
Judith Crawford Jamaica 1829 151
Thomas Parr England 1635 152
Thomas Newman England 1542 153
Asmar Salakhova Armenia 1966 154
Iwan Yorath England-Wales 1621 156
Sampson Skakoragaro Tanzania 1969 158
Joseph Surrington Norway ?
Robert Lynch Jamaica 1830 160
Sarah Desson Rovin England 1741 164
Zaro Aga USA 1932 164
Jonas Warren Ireland 1787 167
Ali Ashraf Husseini
Iran 1976 168
Shirali Mislimov Azerbaijan, USSR 1973 168
Henry Jenkins England 1670 169
Javier Pereira Columbia 1958 169
Jean Korin Hungary ? 172
John Gower England
? 172
John Rovin England
1741 172
Baba Harainsingh India 1952 176
Elizabeth Yorath England-Wales 1668 177
Kentigren Scotland 600 185
Peter Torton England
1724 185
Petrarsh Zartan Hungary 1724
Li Chang-Yun China 1933 256

Table 2 (Based on  Ripley's & Fortean Times)

Emperor Ojin-Tenno     R Japan 310 109
Ivan Tchghelovski          R
Russia 1847 110
Luang Pu Supha           FT
Thailand 2010 113
Tane Ikai                        FT USA 1996 114
Saw Mya Kyi                 FT Burma 2010 118
Barbara Viertaler           R Austria 1812? 119?
Robert Gibson                R USA 1885 119
Atidje Starkova             FT Bulgaria 1996 120
Dr. James Muatt             R Scotland 1776 120
Clement Olheim             R France 1812
Susie Brunson               FT USA 1994 123
Hohua Ahowhenua         R New Zealand 1889 124
Haume Solmaz              FT Turkey 2010 125
Juana Rodriguez            FT Cuba 2010 125
Francisco Barriosnuevo Choperana FT Columbia ?
Swift Arrow                      R Chippewa Indian Chief
1917 129
Antisa Khvichava            FT Georgia, Soviet Union 2010 130
Saleem Bin Naseeb Al Haddad Al Hajri  FT Oman 1995 130
Raimundo Gomes De Santos   FT
Brazil ?
Zolfali Soltanmoradi        FT Iran 1995 140
Gong Laifa                       FT China 1995 147
Amm Atwa Moussa        FT Egypt ?
Turina                                FT Sumatra 2010 157


Fortean Times No. 89 August 1996, pp 14-15

Ripley's Giant Believe It or Not! 1985, Bonanza Books, NY