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Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Appendixes


     

Part I: The Intrusion of Death

Chapter 3

Modern Methuselahs

 

And the Lord said,
My spirit shall not always abide in man
for that he also is flesh:
yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
(Genesis 6:3)

     Living things often exhibit an amazing viability. Some organisms are remarkably difficult to kill! Let us consider first, briefly, some of the factors that govern the longevity of any form of life whether plant or animal.
     We have already noted that animals are viable as long as they grow: continued growth means continued vitality. But warm blooded animals cannot go on growing indefinitely since ultimately they become too large: certain functional and structural limitations bring about their demise in due time for reasons which really have nothing to do with the fact of their age per se.
     There is, however, one way in which growth of a simple organism can be continued indefinitely without undue enlargement, and this is by dividing into two when size reaches a certain point. For example, unicellular animals simply divide into two organisms as soon as they reach a critical size, and they thus renew their lease on life without ever getting too bulky yet always continuing the process of growing. But if an elephant were to continue to grow indefinitely it would be immobilized in due time by its sheer mass. It is doomed not merely by the likelihood of fatal injury due to accident or disease (which increases with the increase of years), but its size is thus determined by reason of the fact that a free-standing organism cannot sustain its

     pg.1 of 15     


own weight beyond the strength limitations of the materials out of which its limbs and backbone are constructed. (64)
        The average life span of each species is more or less predetermined by its susceptibility to fatal accident. In the case of marine animals, the life span is extended somewhat (in whales for example, in spite of their enormously increased size) simply because of the fact that the animal's bulk, being immersed in a weight-supporting medium like water, places less strain upon its structure and on its energy resources. But even here there are limitations not only for physiological reasons but also because the animal is mobile in three dimensions (as opposed to the two dimensional mobility of land animals) and it therefore exposes itself to an increased range of hazards. It is in danger not merely on its own ground level, but from above and below as well.
     In the case of plants we find the effects of the hazards of life are somewhat reduced. In the first place, if mobility contributes to the range of hazards, immobility may reduce that range. In the second place, immobility reduces the physiological need for a sophisticated central nervous system and the complex musculature required for locomotion. The whole life support system is enormously simplified. Thus plants such as trees need none of these structural complexities. Moreover, they can distribute their weight more effectively on the ground by spreading their base root system adequately or by thrusting into the earth deep tap roots to serve as anchors, thus decreasing the risk of injury by upset. Their fibre structure also contributes to their greater resistance to damage. For these reasons trees are almost certainly among the longest living organisms we know.
     Here are some average ages among trees noted for their longevity:
(65)

SPECIES                                                            AGE

Elm,                                                                    335 years
Ivy                                                                      450
Palm                                                                    650
Lime                                                                  1100
Oak                                                                   1200
Yew                                                                   2800
Sequoia                                                             4000
Baobab and Bristlecone                                    5000 and up
Japanese Cedar,                                                7200 (by C14)

    It is difficult to think of a single organism surviving 7000 years or more, but there are possibly circumstances under which living things may survive even longer than this. Since one important contributing factor in long life is slowness of growth, it follows that almost any living thing can be forced, by cooling or underfeeding or reducing its access to light or water, to slow up its metabolism

64. On this see J. B. S. Haldane, "On Being the Right Size" in The World of Mathematics, edited by J. R. Newman, New York, Simon & Schuster, 1956, vol.2, p.952f.
65. As reported in New Scientist, 25 Mar., 1976, p.2: the species is Cryptomeria japonica.

     pg 2 of 15      

until it almost stops altogether. Dormancy thus becomes another key to longevity. (66)
     Seeds may be dormant for tremendous periods of time and yet retain their viability, as proven by their subsequent germination after centuries of apparent lifelessness. Some years ago the magazine Think published a photograph of a bean sprout flourishing in the warm Egyptian sunshine which had germinated from a seed taken from the tomb of Tutankhamun (14th century B.C.). (67) There may be some question as to whether this particular bean really was from the ancient monarch's tomb, but since that time there are a number of other fairly well authenticated instances of recovery from great periods of dormancy. In 1965 J. T. Bonner, in commenting on the above reputed revival of a seed, remarked, (68)

     Although the extent of seed longevity has been greatly exaggerated, there are known cases of seeds being stored successfully over 3000 years. This means that for this great period the embryo remained in what amounts to suspended animation.

     Professor H. Godwin of the Department of Botany (Cambridge) refers to seeds of Nelumbium collected in 1705 and kept in the Hans Sloane Collection at the British Museum until 1942 when they were revived successfully. (69) Godwin also refers to seeds of the same plant received from a drained lake in Southern Manchuria which were believed to have an age of several thousand years. These, too, were still viable. It is true that in the last instance radiocarbon dating did not support such an age, but Godwin refers to a radiocarbon dating of a canoe at Henisgawa, near Tokyo, which established an age of over 3000 years for some viable seeds of water lily found in association with it. He mentions several other similar examples but feels that in every case the date reckoning is not unequivocal. However, in 1969 a report from La Plata in Argentina records the germination of seeds estimated to be about 550 years old by scientists from the National University. These seeds were discovered while excavating a tomb where a necklace was found made out of nuts of Juglands arcticus. (70) Inside each nut was a seed and these seeds, being sown in sterile conditions in a highly nutritious medium, germinated almost immediately, sprouted, formed roots, and then formed leaves by the tenth day. There is little doubt about these particular seeds. In 1967 a Dr. Michael Black had reported the germination of the seeds Lupinus arcticus found in the Yukon in a rodent burrow beneath overlying "muck" which had been frozen during the last glaciation, which accredits to them a hoary age in excess of 10,000 years. (71) These seeds also germinated.
     Again, it should be said that although a supporting radiocarbon

66. A tiny organism believed to be two billion years old and still alive, has recently been reported in MD Canada, Feb. 1971, p.144.
67. Think, Sept., 1939, p.19.
68. Bonner, J. T., Size and Cycle: An Essay on the Structure of Biology, Princeton, 1965, p.66.
69. Godwin, H., "Evidence for Longevity of Seeds," Nature, vol.120, 1968, p.708f.
70. Juglands arcticus: Science Journal, Jan., 1969, under News, p.16.
71. Black, Michael, "Arctic Lupines Bloom After 10,000 Years," New Scientist, 19 Oct., 1967, p.148, 149.

     pg.3 of 15     

date of 14,860 to 14,840 years is given by the investigators, it is not absolutely certain that the seeds themselves were not intrusions. It hardly seems possible that every single instance of a truly ancient seed that germinates should be an intrusion, though it is proper to exercise caution.
     Contrary to popular opinion, what is alive may be remarkably difficult to kill. Life has amazing power to maintain itself.
(72)

   We now turn to the evidence of unusual longevity for man himself, as reflected in the traditions of antiquity but now increasingly in the records of more recent times. For as will be seen, there are still a significant number of individuals who reach an extraordinary old age even if a small percentage of them prove to be fictitious as to the age achieved. From the earliest times right up to the present day there have been stories of men who lived to such great ages so far beyond our expectations as to seem little more than "old wives' tales."
     Some of the very oldest records, of course, speak of life spans extending over many centuries and therefore far exceeding even the antiquarians of our own times. And we might therefore feel that they really are entirely legendary. But in recent years archaeology has been consistently confirming many ancient traditions and unexpectedly demonstrating their entire trustworthiness, not merely in the broad scope of their observations but even in their more precise details. There is a growing respect among archaeologists not only for the early records of Scripture itself but for the writings of secular historians as well. It has been either our ignorance of the past or our failure to interpret these records correctly that has hitherto contributed to our skepticism.
     It is well to remember this when questioning the hearsay of longevity of individuals in an illiterate or only semi-literate society where written records such as birth certificates are virtually absent, for in such societies every one is tied in and involved deeply in all kinds of personal relationships which are of particular importance to the whole community and therefore not likely to be easily forgotten. If a man lives for150 years or so, he will have a tremendous number of relatives who don't forget, even though there may be not one scrap of paper to prove a word any of them has to say. The network of testimony is hard to discount.
     With particular reference to the great ages achieved by individuals in the early days of human history, such as have been recorded by men like Hesiod and others, we may note that Josephus appeals to them as supporting evidence for the veracity of the early chapters of Genesis; and Josephus, like other ancient historians, has been proving himself to be a more careful recorder than was formerly believed.

72. Bacteria have been recovered from the deepest strata of salt mines, first in Europe and then in America, completely insulated by rock salt. These bacteria on being removed proved to be still viable. They are dated from the strata in which they were found as half a billion years old. See H. J. Dombrowski, Lebende Bakten en aus dem Palaozoicum (1963) for an excellent account of their discovery and characteristics. Theodosius Dobzhansky observed: "Life carries the potentiality of endless self-replication, but the realization of this potentiality is restricted by the resistance of the environment" [in Science Ponders Religion, edited by by H. Shapley, New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1960, p.118].

     pg.4 of 15     

     In his Antiquities of the Jews Josephus wrote: (73)

     Now I have for witnesses to what I have said, all those that have written Antiquities, both among the Greeks and barbarians; for even Manetho who wrote the Egyptian History, and Berosus who collected the Chaldean Monuments, and Mochus, and Hestiacus, and besides these, Hieronymus, the Egyptian, and those who composed the Phoenician history, agree to what I here say. Hesiod also, and Hecatacus, Hellanicus, and Acusilaus; and besides Ephorus and Nicolaus relate that the ancients lived a thousand years.

     In his book, The Beginnings of History, Francois Lenormant points out that Hesiod records in this connection that, in the Silver Age which immediately followed the Golden Age of man's unfallen estate, men remained for a hundred years with their mothers in a state of childhood. (74) Hellanicus, speaking of a time somewhat later, related that the Epacans who had been forced by the tyranny of Salmonacus to emigrate from Elis and to settle in Aetolia lived 200 years for several successive generations; one of them, according to Damastes of Signaeum, even attained 300 years. Pliny and Valerius Maximus have collected a certain number of similar cases from various quarters. They do not all belong to Greece. They show that the Illyrians, for instance, on the authority of Cornelius Alexander, counted as their ancestor Dathon or Dadon, who lived 500 years in good health. According to The Periplus of Xenophon (of Lampsacus), the Thyians headed their royal list with a prince who lived 600 years, a period eclipsed only by the 800 years of his son's life span. As Lenormant concluded, "All these are just so many witnesses to the belief, common to all nations, in an extreme longevity among the earliest ancestors of the human race." (75)
     In one of his studies of antiquity, the great classical scholar George Rawlinson observed:
(76)

     There is a large amount of consentient tradition to the effect that the life of man was originally far more prolonged than it is at present extending to at least several hundreds of years. The Babylonians, Egyptians, and the Chinese all exaggerated these into hundreds of thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans with more moderation limited human life within a hundred to eight hundred years. The Hindus still further shortened it. . . . Their books taught that in the first ages of the world man was free from diseases and lived originally 400 years. In the second, the term of life was reduced from 400 to 300. In the third, it became 200 years.
     So strange did the fact first appear to the Chinese that an Emperor who wrote a medical work [I presume the reference is to the Yellow Emperor's Classic work Internal Medicine, dated c. 2600 B.C., and in which, incidentally, the circulation

73. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book. I, chap.3, section 9. According to Stanley M. Burstein who has published a complete transcript of all the known works and fragments of Berossus, "Berossus was probably the ultimate source of Josephus for the underlying theory concerning the extraordinary ages of the patriarchs" [The 'Babylonnica' of Berossus, Malibu, California, Undena Publ., 1978, p.29]. What Josephus has said is virtually an exact quote from Berossus whom Burstein had already noted as a very careful reporter of the materials he had at hand.
74. Lenormant, Francois, The Beginnings of History, New York, Scribners, 1891, p.293.
75. Lenormant, Francois, ibid., p.294.
76. Rawlinson, George, Historical Illustrations, p.14, quoted by Marcus Dods, The Book of Genesis, Edinburgh, Clark, no date., p.29, footnote 2.

     pg.5 of 15     

of the blood was specifically spelled out. ACC] proposed an inquiry into the reasons why the ancestors attained to so much more advanced an age than the moderns.

     Joseph Needham (77) the author of the most comprehensive study of Chinese civilization and technology to be undertaken by a European, and a co-worker, Lu Gwei-Djen, published a paper which dealt in part with the supposed causes underlying the substantial ages (100 to 200 years) reached by certain notable Chinese of the Middle Ages who apparently displayed little evidence of senescence either in mind or body. The Chinese attributed it largely to the use of urine as a medicine. For example: (78)

     Early in the fourteenth century A.D., Chu Chen-Heng tells us that he once attended an old woman over eighty years of age who gave the appearance of being only forty. In reply to his questioning she explained why she had had such good health and suffered no illnesses. Once when she had been ill she had been instructed to take human urine, and this she had done for several decades. Who could maintain, therefore, says Chu Chen-Heng, the old belief that the property of urine is algorific [causing a fall in body temperature] and that it could not be taken for a long time?

     It is conceivable that continued use of this treatment might indeed cause a chronic depression of body temperature which would actually contribute to the prolonging of life (and youthfulness) in the same way that cooling laboratory animals has been found to extend their life by slowing up metabolic activity.
     Several common ideas appear repeatedly in these ancient traditions. For one thing, people are said to have retained their vigour and health. They did not linger on in a state of senility. As we shall see, there is some evidence (in some of the exceptionally aged individuals) of a partial recovery of youth witnessed, for example, by the return of hair colour and the "cutting" of a third set of teeth. Another fact upon which all the ancient authorities agree is that the nearer a man was to the Golden Age of sinlessness, the longer he lived. The course of history in this respect has not been progressive in nature but degenerative. At this point, of course, tradition and the earliest written records stand in direct opposition to current evolutionary doctrine.
     We have a few witnesses to the achievement of a hoary enough old age even in the past seven or eight hundred years. Marco Polo wrote a record of his travels in the Kingdom of Ghengis Khan towards the end of the thirteenth century and his observations have proved remarkably dependable and sober-minded wherever they could be checked, in spite of the opportunities he had to observe so many entirely new and strange things (such as the use of fireproof clothing woven out of

77. Needham, Joseph, Science and Civilization in China, Cambridge University Press, 1954 to the present. Eight substantial volumes have been published so far. See especially, vol.V, Part. 3, pp.1-167, "The Golden Age of Alchemy."
78. Needham, J. and Lu Gwei-Dj en, "Sex Hormones in the Middle Ages," Endeavour, vol.XXVII, 1968, p.131.

     pg.6 of 15     


asbestos fibres, for example!). At one place he mentions the Yogi, a "class of people who are indeed properly Brahmins, but they form a religious order devoted to idols. They are extremely long-lived, every one of them living from 150 to 200 years. They eat very little, but what they do eat, is good." (79) In view of what has been said previously about the reduction of food intake in connection with dormancy in animals and the consequent extension of life, his remark about their meager fare, which is obviously a casual aside, has added significance. I do not recall any reference in Marco Polo's writings to the sad effects of over-indulgence, but there is a very ancient proverb, undoubtedly borne of experience, which says, "Man does not die: he kills himself and he digs his grave with his teeth."
     Of course, we are so far from the starting point of man now that we cannot expect, perhaps, to find any further instances of people living to four or five hundred years, but there really is no reason to doubt that there are many modern "ancients" who are very old, certainly over 120 and probably quite a number over 150 years of age.
     In modern times we read of certain areas of the world, such as Azerbaijan and Abkhasia in USSR, Hunza in Kashmir, Vilcabamba in Ecuador, and other Shangri-Las, where ordinary men and women live in health and vigour to ages that make us seem to die as mere children with our three score and ten years. That the extraordinary ages achieved by these people, not infrequently in excess of 130 years or more, are genuine (contrary to the skepticism of Acsadi and Nemesken) seems now reasonably well established. A review recently appeared in the Royal Anthropological Institute News of a book by David Davies, The Centenarians of the Andes. In this review, O. Harris notes:
(80)

     Dr. Davies' book gives an account of a remarkable number of centenarians living in a crescent of villages round Vilcabamba in southern Ecuador. The interest of these people is considerable: because of the meticulous recording of births and deaths by the Catholic Church, there is documentary evidence of their ages which is not available in the other two zones where comparable numbers of centenarians are known to exist namely, the Abkasians to the east of the Black Sea, and the Hunzas in North Kashmir/southwest China.

     From one of these areas (Abkhasia in the Georgian Soviet Union) Alexander Leaf reports his investigation of ages where no such meticulous recording of births is available. He writes: (81)

     There is no baptismal record for Khfaf Lasuria. So as I talked to her, I kept doing mental arithmetic. I have said that she is more than 130; I should have said "at least." According to her account, her father lived to be 100 and her

79. Polo, Marco, The Travels of Marco Polo, New York, Library Publications, no date., p.276.
80. Royal Anthropological Institute News, Sept./Oct., 1975, p.13.
81. Leaf, Alexander, "Every Day is a Gift When You are Over 100," National Geographic Magazine, Jan., 1973, p.99.

     pg.7 of 15     


mother 101 or 102. She had seven sisters and three brothers, and is the only survivor. Her son, who was born when she was 52, is now 82 (arithmetic: 82 + 52 = 134). She was married a second time at age 50, at the time of the Turkish war which ended 94 years ago in 1878 (50 + 94 = 144). When she was 20, her first husband almost left home to fight in the Crimean War of 1853-56 (118+20=138). She started smoking in 1910 when her younger brother died at the age of 60; he was some ten years younger than she (60+10+62= 132). Her second husband, who was two years younger than she, died 28 to 30 years ago, when he was more than 100 (100+29+2=131).
     My interview was conducted in such a way that it would have been difficult for each of these assessments to come out in such fair agreement unless a common thread of reality linked them. Mrs. Lasuria believes she is 141 years old; thus I would accept some age between 131 and 141.

     Our reactions to these reports are apt to be ambivalent. There are few who would not want to extend their lives by scores of years when they are in life's prime and not facing the limitations of the older folk. When we reach senior years we begin to have second thoughts about going on for too long in such a condition. But these supercentenarians seem not merely to have added years to life but life to years. Yet even here there comes a time apparently when the desire to go on living decreases with the gradual decline in energy. One centenarian from Vilcabamba who is still active at a modest 120 years, nevertheless said somewhat cynically to an interviewer, "Who wants to live to be 120?"
     It is interesting that such people not infrequently seem to die by an almost deliberate loosening of their hold on life. A note in the San Francisco Chronicle (Saturday, 12 July, 1975) reported:

     Of those people who live to be at least 100 years old, medical experts have found a remarkably high proportion of them die by decision. In other words, they simply decide on a time to go, then go. Studies have turned up an unusually large number of people in that age bracket who predicted the week or even the day they would die.

     It is true that statistics show we are improving our chances a little. But it is our chances of reaching 70 or so that are improved, not our chances of reaching 100 or 200. More babies and children are being saved from an early death and thus the mean for the population is raised, but the potential life span for man as a whole seems to have remained pretty much the same.
     The point is important because the often reported finding that the average age is now greatly improved does not mean that people will steadily achieve longer and longer lives until we become like the patriarchs

     pg.8 of 15     


of Genesis. It is possible that we shall indeed so become, but not because the present trend is leading that way. As Professor A. S. Warthin in a United States Census Report put it, "the increase in the average longevity is due to the saving of life through the prevention of extrinsic pathological death in the earlier decades of life, but there has been no extension of the normal or biologic life limit." (82) This was written fifty years ago but it also reflects the present position quite faithfully except that one might add the further factor of the reduction of some diseases of old age as well. Raymond Pearl has stated the case this way: "In 1890 only 72% of boy babies got a foothold on the ten year rung; now 91% do... The span of human life has not been lengthened" [his emphasis]. (83)
     It may be useful to note in passing what this average age improvement signifies in the long term. Acsadi and Nemeskeri give the following figures for the average ages attained from Graeco-Roman times to the present, based on skeletal remains.
(84)

Greek and Roman times,                         c. 28 years
Middle Ages,                                         25-35 years
17th and 18th centuries,                        25-35 years

     The census published by the Registrar-general of England and Wales for the period from 18381854 gave an average age of 40 for males and 42 for females; and a subsequent census for 1937 showed the average age for males to be 60 and for females 64. It should be noted that these ages are averages and not maxima attainable, for as will be seen from the tabulation below, there were exceptional individuals living to very much greater ages throughout these periods. The Soviet Census of 1959 listed 5600 centenarians, among whom were 578 people over 120 years of age. (85) Perhaps some of these are mistakenly recorded, but certainly not every one of them. Acsadi and Nemeskeri give some figures for centenarians in Hungary as follows: (86)

In 1910 in a population of 7,612,000 there were 122 centenarians.
In 1960 in a population of 9,961,000 there were  67 centenarians.

     However, they say that of the 67 individuals listed for 1960, fifty-three were found to have been recorded erroneously and only fourteen were considered validated. Taking all their data for European countries and this data is actually very substantial they conclude on the basis of the available figures: "It is more or less generally accepted that man's maximum length of life can be counted at present to be 110 plus or minus 10 years." This is an interesting observation to appear in what is probably the most exhaustive study of human mortality in recent years, for it in effect sets the probable

82. Warthin, A. S., Old Age, Newe York, 1929, p.166, 167. Dr. Clive Wood of Oxford pointed out that between 1789 and 1963 the expectancy for white American men who had reached the age of 60 remained almost stationary at fifteen years, for "The old men of the Revolution were as old as the old men of today. There were just fewer of them" ["Longevity, Catalyst of Social Revolution," New Scientist, 24 May, 1973, p.469].
83. Pearl, Raymond, Man the Animal, Bloomington, Indiana, Principia Press, 1946, p.52.
84. Acsadi, Gy. and J. Nemeskeri, History of Human Life Span and Motality, Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, 1979, p.69, 251, 255.
85. Soviet Census: news item, New Scientist, 22 May, 1969, p.412.
86. Acsadi, Gy. and J. Nemeskeri, History of Human Life Span and Mortality, Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, 1979, p. 22.

     pg.9 of 15     


top figure (for all but a few exceptional and numerically small scattered populations) at 120 years. This figure has special significance in the light of a statement made in Genesis 6:3, which we shall have occasion to look at more closely in a later chapter. The following Tabulation indicates the kind of evidence that exists for extreme longevity in comparatively recent and modern times.
     The following individuals have achieved longevity in excess of 100 years. The names are in chronological order by age. Further details are given in Appendix I.

 Maude Tull  103 in 1975  Los Angeles, USA
 Isabel Mendieta  103 in 1973  Vilcabamba
 Anna Schwab  104 in 1972  Ohio, USA
 Micaela Quezacla  104 in 1976  Vilcabamba
 John Walker  104 in 1969  Ontario, Can.
 Frances Johnson  107, d.1832  Jamaica
 Robert Thomas  107, d. 1821  Fairfax Co., USA
 Emma Mills  108 in 1973  Ontario, Can.
 Mary Holoboff  108, d. 1942  British Columbia, Can.
 Thomas Robinson  110, d.1970  Ontario, Can.
 Elizabeth Lambe  110, d. 1830  West Indies
 Astana Shlarba  110 in 1966  Georgia, USSR
 Jim Ho  111 in 1976  Prince Edward Island, Can.
 Spencer Church  111 in 1961  Ontario, Can.
 Ada Roe  111, d. 1970  England
 John Turner  111, d. 1968  England
 Caesar Paul  112 in 1975  Ontario, Can.
 Mittelstedt  112, d. 1792  Prussia
 Francis Hongo  113, d. 1702  Venice
 Arma Darendonian  113, d. 1972  France
 Annie Firlotte  113 in 1954  New Brunswick, Can.
 Gabriel Sanchez  113 in 1976  Vilcabamba
 Amina Orujeva  114 in 1967  Azerbaijan, USSR
 Zibeida Sheidayeva  114 in 1974  Azerbaijan, USSR
 Teb Sharmat  115 in 1966  Abkhasia, USSR
 Murtee, Johnny  115, d.1976  Australia
 Walter Williams  117, d. 1959  Texas, USA
 Mary Mills  118, d.1805  West Indies
 Mr. C. Cotterel  120, d. 1760?  Philadelphia, USA
 Jane Morgan  120, d. 1830  Jamaica
 Mary Goodsall  120, d.1820  Jamaica
 Mrs. Gray  121, d. 1770  Kent, England
 Charles Layne  121, d. 1821  Virginia, USA
 Rev. Toby Crosby  122, d. 1976  Florida, USA
 Sabir Kurbonadaov  122 in 1973  Tajik Republic, USSR
 John Gilley  123, d. 1813  Maine, USA
 Noah Raby  123, d. 1895  New Jersey, USA
 Demetrius Liondos  123 in 1970  Greece

     pg.10 of 15     



 Thomas Wishart  124, d. 1760  Dumfries, Scodand
 Francisco Rubjo  124, d. 1943  Mexico 
 Attila, the Hun  124, d. 453?  Germany
 Sylvester Magee  126 in 1967  Missouri, USA
 Mary Yates  127, d. 1776  England
 Miguel Carpio  127 in 1976  Vilcabamba
 Eglebert Hoff  128, d. 1764  New York, USA
 Ephriam Zithundu Zulu  130, d. 1975  South Africa
 Margaret Darby  130, d. 1821  Jamaica
 Francis Peat  130, d. 1830  Jamaica
 Ramonotowane Seran  130, d. 1945  Bechuanaland, Africa
 Balakishi Orujeva  130 in 1967  Azerbaijan, USSR
 Peter Garden  131, d. 1775  Edinburgh, Scotland
 Mathayo Achungo  132, d. 1976  Kenya, Africa
 Gabriel Erazo  132 in 1976  Vilcabamba
 Charlie Smith  133 in 1976  Florida, USA
 Henry Francisco  134, d. 1820  New York, USA
 Beim Mekraliyeva  134 in 1966  Azerbaijan, USSR
 Anton Pilya  135, d. 1965  Georgia, USSR
 Nicholas Petours  137, d. 1775?  Germany
 Juan Moroygota   138 in 1828  Columbia, South America
 Gentleman  140 in 1838  South America
 Lasuria Khfaf  140 in 1974  Azerbaijan, USSR
 Meclahig Agayev  140 in 1976  Azerbaijan, USSR
 William Hotchluss  140, d. 1895  St. Louis, USA
 Jose David  142 in 1973  Vilcabama
 Hilario Pari  143, d. 1807?  Lima, Peru
 Jean Effingham  144, d. 1757  Cornwall, England
 Countess of Desmond  145, d. 1619  England
 Joseph Bam  146, d. 1821  Jamaica
 Bridget Devine  147, d. 1845  England
 Catherine Hiatt  150, d. 1831  Jamaica
 Unnamed Lady  150, d. 1894  France
 C. Jacobsen Drakenberg  150, d. 1772  Denmark
 Mahmoud Nivazov  150 in 1959  Azerbaijan, USSR
 Judith Crawford  151, d. 1829  Jamaica
 G. Stanley  151, d. 1719  England
 Thomas Parr  152, d. 1635  England
 Thomas Newman  153, d. 1542  England
 Asmar Salakhova  154 in 1966  Soviet Armenia
 Iwan Yorath  156, d. 1621  Wales
 A Peasant  157, d. 1800?  Poland
 Sampson Skakoragaro  158 in 1969  Tanzania, Africa
 Robert Lynch  160, d. 1830  Jamaica
 Joseph Surrington  160, d.?  Norway
 Zaro Aga  164, d. 1932  USA
 Sarah Desson Rovin  164, d. 1741  England
 Jonas Warren  167, d. 1787  Ireland
 Shirali Mislimov  168, d. 1973  Azerbaijan, USSR
 Ali Ashraf Husseini  168 in 1976  Iran
 Javier Pereira  169, d. 1958  Columbia, S.A.
 Henry Jenkins  169, d. 1670  England
 John Rovin  172, d. 1741  England

     pg.11 of 15     



 John Gower  172, d. ?  England
 Jean Korin  172, d. ?  Hungary
 A Negress  174 in 1775  South America
 Baba Harainsingh  176 in 1952  India
 Elizabeth Yorath  177, d. 1668  England
 Kentigren  185, d. 600  Scotland
 Peter Torton  185, d. 1724  England
 Petrarsh Zartan  187, d. 1724  Hungary
 Gentleman  192, d. 1895?  Vera Cruz, Mexico
 Gentleman  207, d. 1500?  England
 Li Chang-Yun  256, d. 1933  China

 

Concluding Remarks

     In certain areas of the world where life is less hectic, where social ties are far more personal, where the family is strongly integrated, where age is respected rather than feared, where the work ethic is still honoured by all alike, where the routine of daily life is comparatively simple and unhurried, where diet is stable and uncomplicated, and where the climate is neither too hot nor too cold there we find pockets of "super-centenarians," as they have been called.
     Some areas do seem more favourable. 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. In 1864 the census for the town of Pilagum in Ecuador, lying 11,000 feet above sea level with a population of about 2000, reported a hundred over 70 years of age, thirty above 90, five above 100, and one at 115.
(87) Today these favoured pockets persist.
     It will be noted, too, from the augmented data of Appendix I that hard work does not shorten life, and the "wear and tear" theory of aging is therefore not borne out. The stress factor, surprisingly, is also probably small. As a matter of interest and possibly having a bearing on the advantages of a life of hard work as opposed to a life of comparative ease, it is interesting to note that in the 1835 census of the black and white populations of the State of New Jersey, it was found that only two individuals of the white population had attained the age of 100 in a total of 320,800 people whereas eleven blacks had reached an age of 100 or over in a population of only 20,000 people.
(88) The vitality of the latter (hard-worked though they probably were) exceeded that of the whites by a factor of 75 times, though the environmental conditions were approximately the same for both. Professor Raymond Pearl found that animals in captivity which are worked hard, such as elephants for which records are available in India, far outlived their fellows in the wild state. (89) 

87. Gould, G. M. and W. L. Pyle, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, New York, Julian Press, 1966, p.370.
88. Prichard, James C., Researches into the Physical History of Mankind, London, Houlston and Stoneman, 1936, vol.1, p.127.
89. Pearl, Raymond, Man the Animal, Bloomington, Indiana, Principia Press 1946, p.47.

     pg.12 of 15     


     There is no evidence that in these pockets of very long-lived people any special effort was made by the inhabitants to adjust their diet in order to enhance life except that the people of Vilcabamba preferred the local river water to the water from the wells which the government had undertaken to drill for them. There is some evidence of a low food intake (1700 calories per day in Vilcabamba as opposed to 3500 in Britain) and certainly they do not seem to overeat, though they do not refuse sweet things at all. Some drink considerable wine, but the alcoholic content may not be high. Quite a number are heavy smokers (40 to 60 cigarettes a day)! (90)
     In a few cases we meet with the strange phenomenon of rejuvenation darkening of gray hair and recovery of teeth, for example. Baba Harainsingh of India had grown a complete new set of teeth and his hair was recovering its original colour by the time he was 176 years old. Hufeland, writing in 1870, gives the instance of a magistrate on the Continent who had lost all his teeth and at the age of 116 eight new ones appeared. At the end of six months these dropped out but were replaced again. This process was repeated so that in all he acquired and lost without pain, 150 teeth by the time of his death four years later in 1791. There was also a woman by the name of Helen Gray who acquired another set of teeth a few years before her death at age 105.
(91)
     There is little or no evidence of the diseases of old age common to our society (arterial or otherwise) in some of the oldest people listed. "Old Parr" who died at the age of 152 less than a year after being presented to the King, was autopsied by the famous Dr. William Harvey who found that the internal organs were in a most perfect state and that the cartilages were not even ossified. No natural cause of death could be found and the general impression was that he died (was "killed") from being over-fed and too well treated in London.
(92) Recently, Mislimov was declared to be medically "in perfect health" at 166 with a blood pressure of 120/75 and a pulse of 72 after climbing three flights of stairs! An autopsy of Zaro Aga at 164 showed that all his glands and organs were still without evidence of disease. Where there is available information, it appears that most of these very old people die quite peacefully in their sleep. Occasionally there are sufferers from arthritis, but on the whole they remain active almost to the end. One ancient worthy of a mere 99 years, Abkha Suleiman, complained that he was finding it difficult to climb trees any longer!
     There is clear evidence of a genetic factor.
(93) There is the case of John Moore who died in 1805 at the age of 107. (94) His father died at the age of 105 and his grandfather at 115. An aged mother gives a better chance of longevity than an aged father, and daughters have a better chance than sons, although Acsadi and Nemeskeri show that

90. Davies, David, "A Shangri-La in Ecuador," New Scientist, 1 Feb., 1973, p.237.
91. Gould, G. M. and W. L. Pyle, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, New York, Julian Press, 1966, p.378.
92. Gould, G. M. and W. L. Pyle, ibid., p.373.
93. "Inheritance of Longevity," British Medical Journal, 4 Oct., 1952, p.767.
94. Gould, G. M. and W. L. Pyle, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, New York, Julian Press, 1966, p.379.

     pg.13 of 15   


this is a comparatively modern phenomenon. (95) The reasons are not clear. This circumstance is to be noted in the case of Joseph Joachim de Prado, of good family, a strong active man living in the district of Campinos, who was 107 in 1886. His mother had died, by accident, at 112, while his maternal grandmother died at 122 years of age. (96) A modem example is that of the head of the familiar Five & Ten Chain Stores, Sebastian S. Kresge, who had reached the age of 91 in 1958 in excellent health, his mother having died at the age of 103 and his grandmother at 101 years of age. (97)
     It will be noted that one oldster was still able to sire a child at 136 years of age, namely, Sampson Skakoragaro who fathered his youngest son at that time. Robert Plot, an Oxford historian of 1686, reported that John Best of the parish of Horton at age 104 married a woman of 56 and begat a son.
     There is evidence that non-whites (blacks, Chinese, etc.) are often longer-lived than whites, only it is well to point out that the people of Vilcabamba are of Spanish origin. But there are an unusual number of black "ancients," many of whom were slaves. In many cases these long-lived people are said to have died as a result of accident or disease, not infrequently from influenza caught from visiting outsiders. It makes one cringe to learn that scientific types are making plans to go into these areas to investigate the causes of their longevity!
     And finally, the idea that when people reach the age of, say, 95, they quickly skip to a claimed 100 years, is not borne out by those who are still alive. The Abkhasians do not believe a man is really very old until he is considerably more than 100, and do not particularly want to be thought of as old in any case. They actually tend to minimize their ages and feel quite able to marry, and are anxious to be married, until they are considered too old by others. One aged fellow who was about to marry insisted he was only 95. But when it was pointed out that he already had a daughter aged 81, he became very angry and refused to discuss it. It turned out that he was probably 108 or more! The point is an important one because we generally assume that up to a certain unspecified age everyone pretends they are not as old as they are, and then when they reach this unspecified age they suddenly begin to claim the honour of being older than they are. It seems that we can think of this as applying to others whom we suppose will be anxious to be thought very ancient, whereas the very ancient individual continues to think of himself as quite youthful still.

95. Acsadi, Gy. and J. Nemeskeri, History of Human Life Span and Mortality, Akademaia Kiado, Budapest, 1970, p.251 and elsewhere.
96. Gould, G. M. and W. L. Pyle, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, New York, Julian Press, 1966, p.379.
97. Sebastian Kresge: feature article, "Adding Life to Years," Time, 20 Oct., 1958, p.52f.

     pg.14 of 15     

     I think that it is time to take a second look at the possibility that man may very well have survived for centuries in former days. Biology knows nothing that renders this unlikely, and careful analysis of the records of longevity in the early chapters of Genesis only servesto increase our respect for the figures which are given there, the implications of which if projected backwards to man's unfallen state have tremendous theological significance. In the next chapter these figures are examined.

     pg.15 of 15     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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