The conventional answer to the question “Who is the oldest person who ever lived?” is Jeanne Calumet of France who according to the Guiness Book of World Records lived to 122 years old.

However, there are many records including pictures, bios, and even videos which indicate many people have lived much longer.

There seem to be three groups of claims about extraordinarily old people:

1) Persons with records of births and deaths which can be pretty well independently verified. In this group I would put some ages up to 168 years old.

2) Real persons who have pictures and some records–but the records are limited so we can’t be totally sure

3) Persons claimed to be much older–hundreds or thousands of years.

I tend to be pretty open minded about even extreme claims in the hundreds or even thousands of years because biology tells us that it’s theoretically possible for cells and even some organisms to be immortal.

However, we have to be much more careful in how we pin down what we will accept as verification of a real age records. But don’t forget–most countries didn’t even have birth records until the 20th century. So we shouldn’t throw out all the possibilities just becauseĀ the proof doesn’t meet our current standards of documentation.

So what is my answer to the question of the oldest person who ever lived?

I think I will go with Li-Ching-Yung who was pretty well documented to be 256 years old in China, who died in 1933 and about whom lots of Chinese records can be found

But I think it’s also possible that some people are as they claim–thousands of years old.

It’s pretty hard to disprove these claims anyway–Isn’t it?

Marty Ettington