Lake Titicaca
Carmelo Laura is the world's oldest person at 123. He lives near Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. (wiki commons)

An Aymara cattle and sheep herder was believed to be the oldest person ever to have lived, after reaching the age of 123.

Bolivia's public records show that Carmelo Laura, who lives in a straw-roofed dirt-floor hut in Frasquia near Lake Titicaca, was born on 16 July, 1890.

This makes him the oldest person ever documented - the previous oldest was Jeanne Louise Calment, who was born on 21 February 1875. She died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days, according to the Guinness World Records.

Jamie Panas, spokeswoman for Guinness, said they have not yet had an oldest person claim filed from Bolivia.

Eugenio Condori, director of Bolivia's civil registrar, explained that birth certificates did not exist in Bolivia until 1940. He said births were previously recorded with baptism certificates provided by Roman Catholic priests.

While Guinness may not accept this as proof of age, it is recognised in Bolivia: "For the state, the baptism certificate is valid," Condori said.

Flores lives at an altitude of 4,000m and walks with a cane but does not wear glasses. He speaks Aymara and people must talk into his ear to be heard.

He told reporters: "I see a bit dimly. I had good vision before. But I saw you coming. I should be about 100 years old or more.

"I walk a lot, that's all. I go out with the animals. I don't eat noodles or rice, only barley. I used to grow potatoes, beans, oca."

40 grandchildren

Flores has chewed coca leaf, a stimulant that wards off hunger, his whole life and said that while he has tried alcohol, he does not drink it at all now.

Instead he drinks water that comes from one of Bolivia's highest peaks, the Illampu, and mostly eats mutton and likes pork, but it is rarely available. He remembers hunting and eating foxes in his youth, and said he has never been further than 50 miles from his home village - and never been seriously ill.

Just one of Flores' three children are still alive and he has 40 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. His wife died over a decade ago and he said he still misses her greatly.

Edwin Flores, his 27-year-old grandson, told reporters how his grandfather fought in the 1933 Chaco war with Paraguay but does not remember it well.

A woman in China has also claimed to be the world's oldest person ever at 127. Ali Mihan, from Xinjiang province in China, says she was born 25 June, 1886, the Xinjiang Daily reports. However, it is unclear if she has any documentation to prove her age.