Did Ancient People Really Have Lifespans Longer Than 200 Years?
Top left: A carving on a Taoist temple; Taoist masters throughout history are said to have lived hundreds of years. (Shutterstock*) Bottom left: An illustration from “Shahnama,” a 10th century Persian poem listing lifespans for kings of hundreds of years and even over 1,000. (Wikimedia Commons) Right: A painting of the biblical figure, Abraham, by Rembrandt; Abraham is said to have far outlived the lifespan expected in modern humans. (Wikimedia Commons) Background: (L-R) An ancient Sumerian tablet (Wikimedia Commons), an ancient Chinese medical text (Defun/iStock/Thinkstock), and Hebrew writing (Shutterstock*)
By Tara MacIsaac
It isn’t only biblical figures who lived to well-seasoned ages of 900 years or more. Ancient texts from many cultures have listed life spans most modern people find simply and literally unbelievable. Some say it’s due to misunderstandings in the translation process, or that the numbers have symbolic meaning—but against the many explanations are also counterarguments that leave the historian wondering whether the human lifespan has actually decreased so significantly over thousands of years.
For example, one explanation is that the ancient Near East understanding of a year could be different than our concept of a year today. Perhaps a year meant an orbit of the moon (a month) instead of an orbit of the sun (12 months).
But if we make the changes accordingly, while it brings the age of the biblical figure Adam down from 930 to a more reasonable 77 at the time of his death, it also means he would have fathered his son Enoch at the age of 11. And Enoch would have only been 5 years old when he fathered Methuselah.
Similar inconsistencies arise when we adjust the year figures to represent seasons instead of solar orbits, noted Carol A. Hill in her article “Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis,” published in the journal “Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith” in December 2003.
Similar problems have arisen when adjusting ages in ancient texts with the assumption that authors used a certain pattern for skewing the actual ages (such as multiplying them by a given number).
“Numbers [in Genesis] could have both real (numerical) and sacred (numerological or symbolic) meaning,” Hill wrote.
In both Genesis and in the 4,000-year-old Sumerian King List — which lists the reigns of single kings in Sumer (ancient southern Iraq) as exceeding 30,000 years in some cases—analysts have noted the use of square numbers.
Much like the Bible, the King List shows a steady decline in lifespans. The list differentiates between pre-flood and post-flood reigns. The pre-flood reigns are significantly longer than the post-flood, though even post-flood lifespans are shown to be several hundred years or more than 1,000 years. In the Bible, we see a progressive decline over the generations from Adam’s 930-year life, to Noah’s 500 years, to Abraham’s 175.
Dwight Young of Brandeis University wrote of the post-flood lifespans in the Sumerian King List: “It is not merely because of their largeness that some of these numbers appear artificial. Etana’s 1560 years, to cite the longest, is but the sum of the two preceding reigns. … Certain spans seem simply to have arisen as multiples of 60. Other large numbers may be recognized as squares: 900, the square of 30; 625, the square of 25; 400, the square of 20 … even among smaller figures, the square of six appears more frequently than one might expect.” Young’s article, titled “A Mathematical Approach to Certain Dynastic Spans in the Sumerian King List,” was published in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies in 1988. Paul Y. Hoskisson, director of the Laura F. Willes Center for Book of Mormon Studies wrote along a similar vein of the patriarch ages in the Bible in a short article for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
On the other hand, looking at patterns, co-founder of the Church of God in South Texas [url=http://www.amendez.com/NAES/Noahs_Ark_Articles_files/NAS The Scientific Evidence for Biblical Longevity.pdf]Arthur Mendez thinks [/url]the rate of decline in longevity from pre-flood times as recorded in ancient texts to today matches the rate of decay observed in organisms when they are exposed to radiation or toxins.
Accounts in Many Cultures, Including Chinese and Persian
In ancient China, super-centenarians were also commonplace, according to many texts. Joseph P. Hou, Ph.D., acupuncturist, wrote in his book “Healthy Longevity Techniques”: “According to Chinese medical records, a doctor named Cuie Wenze of the Qin dynasty lived to be 300 years old. Gee Yule of the later Han dynasty lived to be 280 years old. A high ranking Taoist master monk, Hui Zhao, lived to be 290 years old and Lo Zichange lived to be 180 years old. As recorded in the The Chinese Encyclopedia of Materia Medica, He Nengci of the Tang dynasty lived to be 168 years old. A Taoist master, Li Qingyuan, lived to be 250 years old. In modern times, a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, Lo Mingshan of Sichuan province, lived to be 124 years old.”
Dr. Hou said the Eastern key to longevity is “nourishing life,” including not only physical nourishment, but also mental and spiritual nourishment.
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.
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.
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 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.
[size=37]Lessons About Longevity From a 256-Year-Old[/size]
Mr. Li Qing Yun (1677–1933) died at the age of 256 years old. He had 24 wives, and lived through nine emperors in the Qing Dynasty. (Public Domain)
By Christine Lin |
According to legend, Mr. Li Qing Yun (1677–1933) was a Chinese medicine physician, herbal expert, qigong master, and tactical consultant. He was said to have lived through nine emperors in the Qing Dynasty to be 256 years old.
His May 1933 obituary in Time Magazine, titled “Tortoise-Pigeon-Dog,” revealed Li’s secrets of longevity: “Keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon and sleep like a dog.”
Mr. Li is said to have had quite unusual habits in his daily living. He did not drink hard liquor or smoke and ate his meals at regular times. He was a vegetarian and frequently drank wolfberry (also known as goji berry) tea.
He slept early and got up early. When he had time, he sat up straight with his eyes closed and hands in his lap, at times not moving at all for a few hours.
In his spare time, Li played cards, managing to lose enough money every time for his opponent’s meals for that day. Because of his generosity and levelheaded demeanor, everyone liked to be with him.
Mr. Li spent his whole life studying Chinese herbs and discovering the secrets of longevity, traveling through provinces of China and as far as Thailand to gather herbs and treat illnesses.
While it is unclear whether Li actually lived as long as is believed, what little we know of his habits fit with modern science’s findings about longevity.
Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,” researches the science of longevity. In his book and in a 2009 TED talk, he examined the lifestyle habits of four geographically distinct populations around the world.
All of these groups—Californian Adventists, Okinawans, Sardinians, and Costa Ricans—live to be over 100 years of age at a far greater rate than most people, or they live a dozen years longer than average. He calls the places where these groups live “blue zones.”
According to Buettner’s research, all blue-zone groups eat a vegetable-based diet. The group of Adventists in Loma Linda, California, eat plenty of legumes and greens as mentioned in the Bible. Herders living the in the highlands of Sardinia eat an unleavened whole grain bread, cheese from grass-fed animals, and a special wine.
Buettner found that low-calorie diets help in extending life, as demonstrated by a group of healthy elderly Okinawans who practice a Confucian rule of stopping eating when one is 80 percent full.
Perhaps Li’s wolfberry tea played a crucial part in his health. After hearing Li’s story, medical researchers from Britain and France conducted an in-depth study of wolfberry and found that it contains an unknown vitamin called “Vitamin X,” also known as the “beauty vitamin.” Their experiments confirmed that wolfberry inhibits the accumulation of fat and promotes new liver cells, lowers blood glucose and cholesterol, and so on.
Wolfberry performs a role of rejuvenation: It activates the brain cells and endocrine glands; enhances the secretion of hormones; and removes toxins accumulated in the blood, which can help maintain a normal function of body tissues and organs.
Researchers have found numerous benefits to regular meditation. Neuroscientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School asked two groups of stressed-out high-tech employees to either meditate over eight weeks or live as they normally do.
They found that the meditators “showed a pronounced shift in activity to the left frontal lobe,” reads a 2003 Psychology Today article. “This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression, and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.”
Meditation also reduces brain shrinkage due to aging and enhances mood.
Aside from meditation, Buettner found that regularly scheduled downtime undoes inflammation, which is a reaction to stress. The Adventists in California strictly adhere to their 24-hour Sabbath and spend the time reflecting, praying, and enjoying their social circles.
Buettner also found that community is a huge factor in the longevity of blue-zone groups. Typical Okinawans have many close friends, with whom they share everything. Sardinian highlanders have a reverence for the elderly not found in modern Western societies. The Adventists put family first.
A sense of belonging and having healthy friends and family encourage the individual to live healthily as well.
In “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell examined a group of Italians called the Rosetans, who migrated to an area west of Bangor, Pennsylvania. Across the board, they had lower incidents of heart disease and generally lived long, healthy lives. After experiments, it was determined that their secret was not genetics or even diet (41 percent of their diet came from fat).
“The Rosetans had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world,” Gladwell wrote. “The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were from, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills.”
In his travels, Buettner came across a common theme among blue-zone groups: None of them had the concept of retirement. As it turns out, to keep going makes it easier to keep going.
Purposeful living into the sunset years is a mantra to the Okinawans and Sardinians. In those groups, Buettner met centenarian men and women who continued to climb hills, build fences, fish, and care for great-great-great-great grandchildren.
Interestingly, none of these centenarians exercise purposely as we Westerners who go to the gym do. “They simply live active lives that warrant physical activity,” Buettner said. They all walk, cook, and do chores manually, and many of them garden.
Based on an article about Li Qing Yun from Kan Zhong Guo (Secret China).
From The Epoch Times @ http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/969966-did-ancient-people-really-have-lifespans-longer-than-200-years/ and http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/270979-lessons-about-longevity-from-a-256-year-old/
Thanks to: http://nexusilluminati.blogspot.com
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