When Jeanne Calment died in August 1997 at 122, she was recorded as the oldest person who had ever lived.
But now it’s been suggested that she may have faked her age and was actually 23 years younger.
According to research published on ResearchGate, the real Jeanne Calment actually died in 1934 and her daughter Yvonne assumed her identity to avoid inheritance tax.
That would mean that the record of 122 years and 164 days – recorded by Guinness World Records when Calment died in Arles, France, in 1997 – is actually invalid.
Evidence collected by Russian researchers Nicolai Zak and Valeri Novoselov reportedly include an identity card issued to Jeanne in the 1930s.
The researchers also suggested that Jeanne’s refusal to turn over most of her personal papers to the local archive, instead destroying them, meant the family had something to hide.
In an interview, Novoselov reportedly suggested that the relationship between Yvonne Calment’s husband, Joseph Charles Frédéric Billot, and ‘Jeanne’ also supported his theory.
But the theory that Jeanne Calment’s age had been faked has apparently been dismissed by the French gerontologist who helped validate her age when she died.
Jean-Marie Robine, who quizzed Calment after she claimed she was born in 1875, told the National Post: “All of this is incredibly shaky and rests on nothing.
“Do you have any idea how many people would have needed to lie?” Robine said.