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Lost Technology
With adequate Ragnarok-Proofing, a Sealed Badass in a Can is sure to awaken and heed the Call to Adventure.

"I have said this before, and I do feel it is worth reiterating for those of you about to embark on archaeology degrees: ancient and powerful civilizations do NOT leave dangerous weapons lying around on the off chance that their descendants might someday find themselves in a tight squeeze and need them."
— Professor Bernice Summerfield, "Beyond the Sun"

"To be fair, we don't invent them. We find them. They're gifts, Mr. Miles, from Those Who Came Before."
Warren Vidic, Assassin's Creed I

Beyond Schizo Tech, beyond Scavenger World, there's Lost Technology.

Applied Phlebotinum. Similar to Imported Alien Phlebotinum, with the catch that the current population comprises the survivors or replacements of an age that fell due to its arrogance, war, or some other catastrophe.

Let's face it. The Ancients had some pretty neat gear. Robots, weapons, even the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything. Easy to use, little or no maintenance required, and after thousands of years of neglect often still in perfect working order!

...oh yeah, and this technology completely and utterly destroyed the Ancients and most of the world with it. But that doesn't stop the villains (or the heroes) from wanting to get some for themselves by pillaging an Advanced Ancient Acropolis. Usually, said Lost Technology then tries to destroy the world again. Some, but not all, heroes are smart enough to try to keep people away from the stuff.

Occasionally the good guys need Lost Technology to combat ancient evils that have arisen again (or villains who have acquired Lost Technology of their own). They usually use it as best they can, despite Black Boxes. Still, they suffer from Low Culture, High Tech.

May also show up in the guise of Lost Magic in fantasy settings. Often a consequence of No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup. Also see Sufficiently Advanced and Pointless Doomsday Device. Compare Bamboo Technology. A subtrope of Older Is Better. Frequently overlaps with Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology. May lead to an Archaeological Arms Race.

Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Mazinger Z, the plot is set in motion when Big Bad Dr. Hell finds an army of giant robots in the underground mazes of the Greek island his archaeological expedition was researching, belonging to the lost Mykene civilization. Instantly he decides to seize that technology to further his goals of world domination. Too bad to him -and the world- the legitimate owners of that technology were still around. In one of the UFO Robo Grendizer mangas, Lost Technology had an important -and dire- role.
  • In Kotetsu Jeeg, Dr. Shiba finds several ancient mysterious magical artifacts and hieroglyphs during an archaeological expedition. His findings provide evidence of the ancient lost kingdom of Yamatai that thrived in south of Japan has survived, and its Queen Himika is preparing to invade Japan. Of course, his reaction was using that lost technology to get a countermeasure ready (i. e., turning his eldest son into a cyborg capable transforming into a Humongous Mecha).
  • In The Mysterious Cities of Gold, the little bits of surviving technology from the Mu Empire are this, including a solar powered warship that shoots lasers, a solid gold airplane, and a nuclear reactor. Fighting against Spanish galleons and Mayincatecs with spears.
  • The City in Blame! is so immeasurably vast that "lost" technology is positively ubiquitous, which isn't surprising, considering that the mega structure was built over the span of thousands of years and encompasses most of the solar system. For a more obvious example, Killy's weapon is revealed to be an ancient and legendary piece of technology that nobody has been able to replicate. He is mildly shocked to learn this.
  • Keeping people from (while recklessly getting into) the stuff is a major premise of Galaxy Angel, which is called Lost Technology in the series. The serious Galaxy Angel gameverse has it in droves, but replace backtalking missiles with, say, dangerous ones.
  • The Demon God Androids, the Eye of God "Death Star", the Trigger of Destruction battleship, etc. etc. from El-Hazard: The Magnificent World.
  • Mai-Otome
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has a ton of this stuff, and it's always a major part of whatever crisis the main characters are facing. Magic was specifically nurtured and developed in order to handle the multiple times someone finds a "Lost Logia" and accidentally (or intentionally) pushes the "destroy planet" button.
    • An explanation that falls somewhat flat considering that most of the Lost Logia are magical.
  • Showed up often in Bakuretsu Hunters.
  • The demi-armors from Maze Megaburst Space.
  • The eponymous airships in Simoun are so far lost that their origin isn't clearly remembered. Knowledge of how to use them is only regained through time travel.
  • Texhnolyze
    • Technically the technology is only lost to the population of Lukuss - the Class and the Theonormals never lost it.
  • The doll Emily in Soukou No Strain turns out to be Lost Technology... with dubious origins.
  • An ancient war machine forms a important part of the plot of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
  • Due to citywide amnesia, the megadeuses from The Big O are Lost Technology despite being little more than 40 years old.
  • Boson Jump and Phase Transition technology in Martian Successor Nadesico.
  • In Murder Princess, the Lost Technology is actually called Lost Technology, proper noun. All of the world's "magic" and monsters, as well as the heroine's two companions, were born from Lost Technology, and when its "central processing unit" is destroyed so is everything it created.
  • This is the whole basis of the manga 666 Satan (aka O-Parts Hunter) with the most ultimate of lost technology able to restart the universe itself.
  • Trinity Blood. Not only is it actually called Lost Technology but they even heavily analogize Lost Technology to magic by giving it mystical references.
  • The technology of Laputa in Castle in the Sky. Unusually, it did not destroy them; they voluntarily threw it away because it was alienating them from the earth.
  • The main theme of ∀ Gundam. To fight back against the alien humans of the Moon Race, Earth (which appears to have somehow gone back to the Victorian era) starts digging up old mobile suits and battleships it finds. Turns out we're seeing the end of all the then known Gundam timelines. The Turn A was so powerful it sent humanity effectively back to the stone age, with only the Moon Race retaining video documentation of what happened.
    • Also used as the plot for the more kid aimed spin off Musha Generation, alabeit with the mecha now super deformed, more fantasy elements to the cast and the overall theme being the way of the samurai.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE has a similar mechanic with the "cursed treasure", the EXA-DB. Centuries before the series, a united human race vowed to give up war and destroyed all their advanced weapons. All information regarding how to create them was placed in a massive database... and lost. Vagan's mobile suits are so powerful because they discovered a small fraction of the EXA-DB and based their military tech on it. Both sides are hunting for it, knowing that the lost military tech stored within would easily decide the victor in their generation-spanning war. It briefly appeared in a side manga called Memories of Sid, found by the Bisidian Space Pirates, who got trounced by its automatic defense system Sid, and they have since lost it again.
  • In Trigun they literally call the Plants "Lost Technology". The Plants are like power plants, they produce energy that allows humans to survive on the planet Gunsmoke. The Plants were invented on another, now mostly mythical planet (Earth), and with one exception the knowledge of how and why the Plants work is completely forgotten.
  • GUN×SWORD is a Spiritual Successor to Trigun and also uses this. Two examples are the feuding sisters who turn out to be clones whose father actually saw them as experiments not children, and neither they nor the other characters know what the word clone means and that cross puzzle Van tries to open which turns out to be an electromagnetic shield for his mecha.
  • Lost Universe with its Lost Ships and Psi Weapons. Depending on the Fanon accepted the Lost Technology may be actual, magical gods and demons that have chosen to disguise themselves in the form of technology.
  • In Break Blade, the hero Rygart's mecha or err Golem is not made of quartz like everyone else's, oh no, his is an unholy fusion of cheap metal, oil and he is apparently the only one who can use it — viceversa goes for the quartz golems. Besides being this trope it is also faster and stronger than anything made from quartz.
  • In So Ra No Wo To only 10 Tamekicaduchis are left, and it takes a Teen Genius to make one operational.
  • In Fairy Tail, "Lost Magic" is, according to Master Hades the former master of Fairy Tail of Grimoire Heart, the magic closest to the source of all magic in their world which he believes is connected to Black Mage Zeref. The strongest members of his guild, the Seven Kin of Purgatory, are armed with Lost Magic and are extremely powerful.
  • In Heat Guy J, humanity has gone several steps back technology wise, after a calamitous war. The most advance technology is being controlled and maintained by an apparently benevolent group known as the Celestials. In fact a number of laws were enacted after the war to prevent humans from regaining some of the more destructive technologies, notability research into androids has been outlawed (with some exceptions) and the only android allowed within city limits or populated areas is J.
  • Lost Technology is both the central MacGuffin and the enabling device in Spriggan, which revolves around an archeological arms race between cold war powers, a few secretive fringe groups, and the ARCAM foundation, which seeks to secure (or if that's not possible, disable beyond repair or useful R&D) all "Out-of-Place Artifacts", or "OOPArts", until such time as they feel that the rest of humanity is ready to use them responsibly.
  • Warp technology in Diebuster was purposefully suppressed after humanity gave up trying to explore the galaxy thousands of years ago, to the point that nobody even knows the first principles behind it. And then, of course, there's Nono.
  • Invoked with the Zentraedi of Robotech, who know absolutely nothing about building or repairing their various technologies. It turns out that this is a deliberate ploy on the part of the Robotech Masters; to ensure that the Zentraedi must always depend on them to repair and replace used ammunition and broken parts.

    Literature 
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's universe, older technology is always superior to newer technology, since the original crafts and techniques were largely perfect and Tolkien's universe's history is essentially a process of forgetting (losing) those crafts and techniques, not discovering better ones.
    • The Silmarillion states that the people of the First Age built an elven ship made of "mithril and elven-glass" that could travel both through the sky and through the Outer Void (outer space). This was the ship that Earendil used during the War of Wrath - it was not referred to in technological terms, but as a conventional ship that through divine power could also fly in the heavens.
    • The History of Middle-earth: In early versions of the stories, when Morgoth destroyed Gondolin, the great Elven city hidden in the mountains, he crossed the peaks with metal troop carriers that had fire in their bellies (i.e. engines). In the Second Age, the Númenóreans are said to have had ships that moved against the wind, with weapons that could "fire darts across an ocean." One version of the legends says that the Númenóreans in exile even managed to build aircraft in a futile attempt to escape the newly round world.
  • In Asimov's Foundation novels, most of the galaxy loses its tech when the Empire collapses; the Foundation preserves, improves and reintroduces it. In the later novels, sentient robots are a lost technology universally believed to be mythological, until the heroes meet the last surviving one in the final pages of the last book.
  • Much of the phlebotinium in the Mortal Engines series comes in the form of lost technology.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Thud! introduced Lost Technology in the form of "Devices", mysterious magical/technological devices found and utilized by the dwarfs. Two examples are a cube that functions as an early audio recording device, and something which is described as simply two blocks with some sort of bearing between that causes them to rotate in opposite directions. Forever and no matter how strong a force is used to try and hold them. Basically an infinite mechanical engine that can power anything on nothing.
  • Lost technology and the ruins of long lost high-tech civilizations turn up in the Dying Earth novels (and the fantasy RPG) by Jack Vance, as well as in several of his other short stories (both fantasy and science fiction).
  • There are hints of a previous, lost technological civilization in some of the Shannara novels, a fantasy series by author Terry Brooks. In Sword of Shannara, the characters are told the civilisation destroyed itself with powerful weapons, and encounter a mutant-cyborg monstrosity in a ruined city. This aspect is not played up so much in the later novels, although the Big Bad in one is an AI from the old world.
    • Brooks is currently linking this to his Urban Fantasy series World/Void: the Genesis of Shanarra series is set After the End of World/Void.
    • The "Genesis of Shannara" series openly reveals that the "lost technological civilization" is basically our world about a century in the future. The ruined landscape in which is takes place is the continental USA, the Elves live in an Oregon river valley and forest, and the final destructive event that triggers the cataclysm that re-shapes the world is when an insane US military officer trapped within a nuclear missile command bunker in North Dakota years after the Great Wars took place decides to launch the remaining US nuclear ICBMs (inter-continental ballistic missiles) on a whim.
  • Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series heavily plays the Lost Magic angle up, stocking the world full of unknown thousand-year-old devices mostly in working order, sometimes harnessed and sometimes just accidentally triggered. The Hero is given glimpses into the pre-cataclysm world, as well.
    • The "Age of Legends" was pretty much a personification of a Crystal Spires and Togas world, complete with advanced flying machines and car-equivalents, genetic engineering, universal peace, high-quality medicine - you get the idea. Think an almost ideal peaceful, futuristic society aided and abetted by widespread magic and Magitek.
  • Valyrian steel in A Song of Ice and Fire, and though not really technology, in some weird manner, dragons.
    • Valyrian steel is a fantasy counterpart to a real-world "lost" technology: Damascus steel.
    • Also, the techniques used to raise the Wall, a seven-hundred foot tall wall of ice spanning a continent, built eight thousand years before the series takes place. Lord Commander Mormont said that unlike the hundred of previous commanders, he is the first one under whose rule it shrunk. The others always left it at least a couple meters higher. I.e. the wall was not built as it was at a single point in the past, it got bigger over thousands of years of labour. And the techniques are also presented - rocks and wooden beams and earth then covered in water that freezes into ice, pretty primitive though effective. Kind of an analogue to real-life pyramids, which many people also think to have been impossible to build at the time. And the "barrier" that stop the white walkers is more an instance of The Magic Goes Away, not technology, altough knowledge lost nevertheless.
  • In Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, Roland's world is littered with remnants of the super-advanced technology of the "Great Old Ones", including artificial intelligence, robots, and advanced weaponry. Elements of this technology frequently become central drivers of the plot.
  • Lost Technology - Lost Magic version in the Deryni works:
    • Deryni went from having thriving Healer schools and a regular cadre of Healers as part of society to no Healers in the whole of Gwynedd, with a very slight comeback (a handful of untrained Healers flying by the seat of their pants) two centuries later. Arcane knowledge generally is hidden away and /or lost, with traces gradually coming to light.
    • Camber and his family circle also investigate more ancient ancestors Orin and Jodotha, as well as a strange altar with black and white cubes (akin to Wards Major) showing patterns they've never seen, much less used. Testing shows one of the patterns makes the altar drop into the floor to reveal a secret room beneath it.
  • In Second Apocalypse, there is the Tekne, the highly advanced technology of the alien Inchoroi race (including beam weapons and highly capable, sophisticated genetic engineering). The remnants of the Inchoroi are largely ignorant of how their technology works, and use it in a black box, "trial-and-error" fashion.
  • An ancient galaxy-spanning Internet exists in Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, with all the associated dangers such as viruses, translation errors, and propaganda. The novel is about what happens when a malevolent power, the Straumli Perversion, is released from one of these archives by a team of archaeologist programmers.
  • The stagnant remnants of a world-spanning autocracy that has frozen its culture for tens of thousands of years meets its comeuppance in the form of a one-way time traveller and his knowledge in another Vinge story, "The Peddler's Apprentice". His list of tricks consists of a self defense gadget, and the uplink codes to the array of spy and killsats left behind by Sharn, the "crystal city" the Kingdom of Fyffe devolved from.
  • In a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel, the crew of the Defiant runs across a world that was essentially SET UP this way as an experiment. A highly-advanced culture dropped off a whole bunch of their babies on a planet with tons of small, hi-tech devices scattered all over the place and sat back to see what would happen. The result is a people who are so dependent on technology they don't understand that they're royally screwed when the batteries go dead.
  • In Ayn Rand's Anthem Lost tech includes a subway system and an abandoned house.
  • The series The General, by David Drake and S.M. Stirling (later, Eric Flint steps in for Stirling), has a Lost Technology computer providing information for a planet at a development stage akin to the American Civil War on Earth, to eventually rebuild interstellar travel over a millennium after it was lost due to a galactic civil war.
  • The titular quest in Hiero's Journey is about a search for lost computer technology in an After the End world.
  • T. E. Bass' Half Past Human depicts an Earth about 3000 years in our future, where humans have devolved into a four-toed variety (called the Nebish) and technology appears to have declined as well (although it's still higher than ours). There are two instances of Lost Technology in this novel, both owned by (and planted to assist) the few remaining five-toed outcasts; one gets dismantled by Nebish technicians, who fail to recognise it as a Class 6 cybernetic device, since it's small and portable and their understanding of Class 6 cybers is that the brain case alone would weigh over two tons.
  • The city of Diaspar in Arthur C. Clarke's The City and the Stars (a novel-length re-working of his earlier novella Against the Fall of Night) is composed of technology that no one living understands any longer; but which is all fully automated and self-repairing. Somewhat subverted in that the computer that maintains the city, including the inhabitants — who are cloned reincarnations of the original population with memories of all their incarnations stored in the computer — could conceivably produce new inhabitants with the requisite memories. The technology necessary for space travel, on the other hand, had been deliberately purged both from the city computer's memory, and the records of the telepathic inhabitants of the pastoral city of Lys; and the populations of both cities had developed a phobia of space travel, with a powerful and completely wrong mythology justifying their fear.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 novel Dark Adeptus, Magos Antigonus is able to be Not Quite Dead thanks to some hitherto-unknown tech he finds shortly before he gets killed. The Father of Titans is also shown to be comprised of tech that its copiers cannot replicate fully.
  • Larry Niven's Ringworld and everything on it.
    • There are actually a couple of examples in these stories. The inhabitants of the Ringworld have lost the technology to build or repair it (mostly; the Protector builders left a couple of caches behind, and ensured that anyone who finds them will be smart enough to figure out how to use them). And then there's the City Builder culture, which was a bit below the tech level required to construct the place (or understand it, demonstrated by the fact that they dismantled the stabilization system), which collapsed when the Puppeteers destroyed their superconductors, but which left bits and pieces of equipment based on different technology lying around, some of which still work.
  • Another Niven example (this time with Jerry Pournelle as co-author): Footfall has the fithp: aliens capable of interstellar travel because a predecessor species on their homeworld left instructions behind. They've managed to decode the instructions so they have a (slightly) higher tech level than humans do, but they follow the instructions by rote as opposed to really understanding it.
  • The technology of the various Forerunner races in Andre Norton's science fiction novels.
  • In Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey technology hasn't been lost so much as deliberately purged by a series of "Leapbacks". Some is still reserved for the government resulting in Schizo Tech.
  • The Liaden Universe has "OldTech", Clarkian technology from the waning days of the previous universe (as seen in Crystal Soldier and Crystal Dragon) and the early days of the present universe. Much of it was designed by or derived from tech designed by the Sheriekas, the evolved transhumans responsible for rendering that universe inhospitable to ordinary human life, and it can often carry their malign influence. One of the primary missions of the Scouts is to sequester or destroy any remnants of that technology that still exist, whether harmful or not, as well as research it to try to derive safe versions. This can sometimes bring them into conflict with others—such as Uncle or Clan Korval—who take a more enlightened stance toward using that technology. Likewise, the Department of the Interior recognizes the inherent advantage in having as much OldTech as they can.
  • The setting of Aestival Tide by Elizabeth Hand is a city run entirely on forgotten technology... which is slowly failing.
  • Elderglass from the Gentleman Bastard series.
  • The Deathly Hallows in Harry Potter. Each of them is a one-of-a-kind artifact with power that laughs in the face of all conventional magic: the Elder Wand when wielded by its rightful owner is powerful enough to repair other wands (which Ollivander believed was impossible) with a simple Repairing Charm, the Resurrection Stone can summon a bonafide shade from the afterlife (even this much shouldn't be possible), and the Invisibilty Cloak's power doesn't vanish with time (all other Cloaks eventually run out of juice). Attempts to recreate the Hallows have all ended in failure. Even the Elder Wand — wandmakers know that it's made out of elder wood and has a thestral hair core, but can't create another wand with its power even with those components available. The Hallows are so powerful and mysterious that one legend claims that Death itself created them.
  • Similar to the Shannara, example, The Empire of the East and the Books Of Swords are set in the distant future of earth, after the collapse of technological civilization and the rise of magic. In Empire, however, Technology Comes Back, or starts to, at any rate. The discovery of some old technological devices, including an atomic-powered battle tank, plays a major role in the story.
  • In the Destroyermen series, the Americans lose access to a lot of their technology and are forced to start from scratch, with only each human's understanding of science to help them acquire similar results. Much of their manufactured ammunition and more modern technology that DID survive has been altered so much that numerous aspects of the original designs have been lost for the sake of ease of manufacture.
  • Subverted in the Emberverse series: the lost technology won't even function in the post-Change world, although some specialized items manufactured using pre-Change techniques can be repurposed (e.g., truck suspension springs to power ballistae and heavy catapults, precision-machined gears from automobiles being used in wind- and water-driven machinery, etc.) Spare parts and raw materials salvage is a major preoccupation (and source of wealth) for many communities.
  • The Big Bad in the Chronicles of Prydain, Arawn used to travel the continent, stealing and hoarding magical devices and other more advanced technologies. Somehow he ended up also stealing the knowledge of the making of such devices, such that he sits on a treasure trove of Lost Technology, while the rest of the population wallows in ignorance.
  • TheTripods: the humans on Earth have lost all knowledge of scientific advancements since, essentially, Faraday's work on electromagnetic induction; steam power is used almost exclusively as the primary non-human/animal motive energy source. One of the characters has no idea that he's passing by an electrical substation because he has no idea what a volt is.
  • In Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space universe, a civilization-wide cataclysm known as the Melding Plague - a alien nanotechnologic virus which assimilates any other nanotechnology it contacts - caused the collapse of virtually all manufacturing facilities, most of which were located in the Glitter Belt (Now known as the Rust Belt) around Yellowstone. Humanity still knows how to make the technology, but it is impossible for it to built due to the lack of a manufacturing base, and the risk of the remaining strains of Plague corrupting it. Only the Conjoiners were unaffected by the Plague, due to their extreme isolation. Lighthuggers, the only form of interstellar travel, became this when the Conjoiners stopped building the ships; only the Conjoiners knew how to build the Conjoiner Drive (and only they had the resources), and any attempt to reverse-engineer a Conjoiner Drive would result in a apocalyptic explosion as the drive's propulsion unit would collapse itself. In the modern age, Lighthuggers are priceless and are fiercely defended by their crews, the cybernetically enhanced Ultranauts.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Future History has space travel becoming one, though rediscovered later.
  • Plenty of Precursor technology is found throughout The History of the Galaxy books. The most jarring examples are a Dyson Sphere built by the Insects and a giant supercomputer in space built by the Logrians, composed of tiny crystals, each of which is in itself a computer more powerful than anything humans have. What do the humans use with the giant supercomputer? Turn it into the replacement hub for their InterStar network. Yes, they take an advanced alien computer and use it as an Internet server with the tasks mainly limited to routing signals. There are also Logrian gravity generators that can bend light in such a way as to keep a whole star cluster hidden for millions of years. Humans adapt them as Deflector Shields for Space Fighters.
    • Note that most Insects and Logrians have been slave races to the Harammins for so long that they have forgotten how this technology works.
    • A number of novels also focus on Lost Colonies where the colonists have degraded to the point where they don't know how to make anything new. One such world involves an unending war between the humans and the Insects, who have also degraded. Both sides are able to run primitive industry, such as making bullets, but it's mentioned that the helicopter that a character ends up crashing is one of the last working ones in their fleet and is from the original ship's stock.
  • The Lost Regiment features the Tunnels of Light that occasionally bring humans from Earth to Valennia. They are, in fact, teleporters placed on numerous planets of the ancient starfaring race that nuked itself back into the Stone Age. Their descendants are the Tugars, the Merki, the Bantag, the Kazar, and other hordes. In the second novel, the Merki go against their traditions and raid some of their ancestral burial grounds for Lost Technology, which they use to power their new airships. Due to the symptoms of the sickness that painfully kills anyone near the engines, they can be assumed to be nuclear in nature.
  • In the Darkover series, matrix technology is essentially Magic from Technology fueled by Psychic Powers. During what would later be called "The Ages of Chaos" things got a little out of hand and warfare routinely included summoning creatures from other dimensions and unleashing devastating energies. This eventually led to the Compact, which banned all distance weapons. Over the centuries, the Darkovans developed a superstitious fear of returning to those troubled times, and consequently lost the knowledge of how build or safely use most matrix technology from that era. What was still around was studiously avoided by most people, causing society overall to regress to a largely Medieval level.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined) this is very much the case with Cylon technology, and indeed most technology in general. The people of Kobol apparently invented things like organic Cylons and Resurrection in the distant past. Knowledge of this was lost in the conflicts that led to the settlement of the Twelve Colonies. The rediscovery of these technologies sparked a renewal of hostilities between the mechanical Cylons created in the Colonies and their human makers.
  • Pretty much the premise behind the Stargate Verse; on two distinct levels no less. Present day back to the era of the first Big Bad (Goa'uld), and their good counterparts (Tok'ra). And in later seasons from there to the even older Big Bad (Ori), and their good counterparts (Ancients). The "they were destroyed by their technology" part of this trope doesn't apply so much in this case, as the race which nearly all of the technology in question came from was wiped out by a plague, and then another alien race destroyed the survivors before they could rebuild.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episodes "Message In A Bottle" and "Hunters" the ship comes across a vast abandoned network of relay stations (over 100,000 years old; each powered by its own black hole!) enabling them to make contact with Starfleet on the other side of the galaxy.
  • The eponymous ship in Andromeda is a High Guard capital ship that survived the fall of the Systems Commonwealth and three centuries of the following intergalactic dark age orbiting a black hole at a distance where Time Dilation brought shipboard time to a standstill. Unusually for this trope the protagonists have access to it and the highly advanced antique tech onboard from the pilot on, being the salvage team that pulled it out and the sole surviving member of the original crew (plus the ship herself).
  • Land of the Lost was full of this. In fact the Land itself was a pocket universe created by Altrusian technology.
  • Of the many worlds encountered in Spellbinder, both the Land of the Dragon Lord and the Land of the Spellbinders were based on lost and irreplaceable technology. In fact, Regent Correon's biggest goal in the series (besides helping Paul get home) is finding a way to repair power suits and flying ships- or construct new ones.
    • The Land of the Dragon Lord has The Empire protected not by a standing army but by a highly-advanced photonic computer. Naturally, no one alive has any idea how to fix it once Ashka rips out a key component. Another world had a primitive After the End society telling stories of evil machines that destroyed their world. The protagonists end up unwittingly finding and fixing an AI-controlled APC. Oops.
  • Dinotopia: The Advanced Ancient Acropolis of Poseidos has robot dinosaurs powered by Power Crystals.
  • Fringe has introduced this with an ancient race who developed the technology to destroy an alternate universe. You might not think that would be a useful thing, unless you just happened to be in the middle of a war with an alternate universe.
    • Not so contrived after all: Peter went back in time and scattered the pieces of the machine across America, knowing that his younger self and the Fringe team would find and rebuild the machine several thousand years later. He is the ancient race.
  • Babylon 5:
    • A great war resulted in Earth reverting back to roughly Middle Ages technology, centuries after the end of the eponymous space station. The occasional discoveries of that old time's technology is mostly due to Rangers planting them to be "discovered" by the locals, in order to help them rebuild civilization on their own. One of the monks, who happens to be Ranger, gives a report to his superiors and asks them to provide the next Lost Technology in an old container unlike the last time.
    • There's also companies like Interplanetary Expeditions, who travel to planets that were once home to long-dead civilizations, looking for Lost Technology among the rubble.
    • That's the entire plot of the Crusade spin-off, where the crew of the Excalibur is on a mission to look through old ruins on various worlds in an attempt to find a cure for the Drakh plague that will kill the population of Earth in 5 years.
  • The source of the Rangers' powers in Chouriki Sentai Ohranger is technology created long ago on Pangaea that U.A.O.H. excavated.

    Music 

    Multiple Media 
  • In BIONICLE, just about every bit of technology was considered lost on the desert planet of Bara Magna. Non-functioning battle machines were littered among the dunes, and the characters fought with depleted energy-weapons, using them as plain spears or swords. However, most of the characters did know what their function was and how they worked, having used the technology themselves during the Core War that devastated their planet — they simply didn't have the resources or the knowhow to repair most.
    Later it's revealed that their very settlements have actually been bits and pieces of an ancient exploded Humongous Mecha, and that uncharted regions of their planet still contained a lot of unknown technology, none of which they had been aware of for a hundred millenia.

    Pinball 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Lost technology and the remnants of a star-spanning Galactic Republic are a central part of the setting of Fading Suns, where mankind has descended into a new feudal age and most technology is considered sinful or even blasphemous by the Church.
  • First Age artifacts, especially warstriders, from Exalted. Subverted in that the technology isn't quite lost, just rare and only buildable in certain places or by certain people.
  • The Brothers' War that underpins nearly all of the early storyline of Magic: The Gathering was begun when the two brothers found the Lost Technology of the Thran.
  • The golden age of Humanity in Warhammer 40,000 was brought to an end around the 25th millennium by the one-two punch of the "soulless" rebelling robots known as Men of Iron and the Fall of the Eldar creating the Eye of Terror, which shut down interstellar travel for several years. As a result, the advanced Standard Template Constructs that contained its technological knowledge were fragmented and scattered across the stars. The current Imperium of Man rebuilt human technology by recovering knowledge from these artifacts of the ironically-nicknamed "Dark Age of Technology". (The Dark Age of Technology is also, confusingly, known as the Golden Age of Technology. Whilst human technology verged on Crystal Spires and Togas at times, it is considered a spiritual dark age by the Imperium.)
    • There is also lots of other 'archeotech' out there from several of the other races, mostly the Slann/Necrontyr and the Old Ones/Eldar. It's heavily implied that three of the main races from the setting are forgotten and lost biological weapons.
    • The Necrons are ancient skeleton machines scattered through the universe.
    • The most spectacular pieces of Lost Technology are the Talismans of Vaul, aka Blackstone Fortresses. Giant, space-station-sized, quasi-sentient weapons capable of channeling pure Warp energy; and the only weapons capable of destroying the C'tan. Created by the pre-Fall Eldar, who, although they possess the necessary level of technology to reproduce them, no longer have the knowledge of their construction, or the resources necessary to rebuild them. Also, of the six fortresses found, four were destroyed (by a Necron attack?) and two were captured by the Chaos. Four self destructed to prevent themselves being captured, two were taken of which one was subsequently destroyed by a Necron battle fleet
    • One of the Imperium's driving goals is to avert this trope by rediscovering the lost Standard Template Constructs. In one expanded universe novel, the elation the protagonists feel when they discover one gives way to horror when they realize that it produces Men of Iron. Even worse, it's tainted by Chaos, which might explain why the original Iron Men rebelled in the first place. One of the characters in this instance relates the story of a group of scouts who found an STC which held the schematics for nothing more than a new kind of combat knife. Each of the scouts was given an entire planet for this discovery.
  • Gamma World is a haven for Lost Technology.
  • Anything more advanced than a lighter in Rifts is either lost technology or reverse-enigeered from lost tech. The Glitter Boy is a shining example of both - not only do most of the suits in existence come from before the Cataclysm, but the only new ones come from Free Quebec, who managed to work out their mechanics. The exception being Magitek, the vast majority of which is imported from other worlds and/or dimensions; most notably the Splugorths via Atlantis. Or home-built by Techno-Mages, who are VERY prominent in the setting.
  • BattleTech has 'LosTech' which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Well it's technically old Star League tech that was never proliferated or was destroyed during the Succession Wars, but don't go telling the Successor Houses that. The Kearny-Fuchida Drives, extra-light fusion reactors, many types of weapons and armor, Power Armor, active camouflage, and the black-box Sub Space Ansible are just some of the many devices lost during the Succession Wars.
  • The Fringepaths created by the Tehrmelern race in Fringeworthy.
  • Empire Of The Petal Throne. Some examples of the previous human civilization's technology exist, but they're considered magical by the current medieval level society.
  • Third Edition D&D formally defined "lesser artifacts" as magical Lost Technology: items of great power that could no longer be manufactured by mortals. This distinguished such powerful, yet non-unique items (e.g. staff of power) from singular items like the Wand of Orcus. Many published D&D settings have complex historical backstories involving long-forgotten civilizations, the better to account for why so much Lost Technology can be found lying around in monster-infested holes in the ground.
  • Averted in Mutant Chronicles. While the general tech level of the far future is equivalent to that of the 1950s (with some exceptions) this is not because technology is lost, but because electronic devices, especially those with integrated circuits, are an open door for the Eldritch Abominations of the setting. Blueprints and drawings of pre-regression devices are carefully preserved and copied, and the theory behind them is well understood. As soon as humanity finds a way to keep the Big Bad out, restoring everything from home computers to Kill Sats will take take no more than a few months.

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • A twist on this is Fallout, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic USA, beginning 84 years after a massive nuclear exchange that took place in the year 2077. The local Big Bad has recovered terrifying Lost Technology — in the form of a powerful nuclear weapon from the beforetime!
  • Central to the Halo series; the entirety of the first game is set on the titular Forerunner ringworld, which also happens to be one of seven identical superweapons designed to kill all life in the Milky Way. The 100,000+ year-old installation also comes with a whole set of self-replicating robotic guardians.
    • In Halo 3, we get the Ark, a massive structure (about 100,000 km across) sitting outside the Milky Way that serves as a control room for the Halos. Halo: Ghosts of Onyx gives us a Forerunner Shield World, which is basically a Dyson Sphere designed to protect against the effects of the Halos; the one in Onyx is bigger inside than it is outside. And in Halo Wars, we end up inside a another Shield World, this time with a whole fleet of Cool Starships hidden inside.
    • Off-screen, Forerunner technology was what fueled the creation and technological advantage of the Covenant; it was founded by a group of Prophets who took to the stars in a Forerunner Dreadnought and decided to keep looking for more "sacred" Forerunner relics, which they reverse-engineer to produce the majority of Covenant technology. In fact, the entire war against the Hunters started simply because some of them were eating the stuff.
    • Halo 4 takes place in a Shield World called Requiem, which consists of multiple, artificial layers ensconced on-top of each other, with the outer-most layer designed to make it impenetrable to any form of offensive or breaching action - including the effects of the Halo Array. Requiem also contains more extant Forerunner technology, including a class of combat mecha (the Promethean Knights), a large selection of Forerunner-manufactured weaponry, and a living, breathing Forerunner complete with a top-level combat skin.
    • Halo 4 also introduces an Artifact of Doom from the Expanded Universe, the Composer, designed to digitize any sentient organic within its effective range.
    • The Forerunner Saga - a trilogy of prequel novels detailing the last days of the Forerunner civilization - mentions the Organon, the most sought-after Precursor artifact in all of Forerunner archeology. The final novel, Halo: Silentium, reveals that it's actually the Domain, a vast, galaxy-spanning information network used by the Forerunners to store the entirety of their history, precepts, and achievements. It also happens to be an Precursor itself. Unfortunately, it was lost forever when the IsoDidact activated the Halo Array.
  • Nearly every early Final Fantasy game has some elements (6 and 7 as Lost Magic), usually just to give you a chance to dungeon crawl through a high-tech tower of some sort. No one ever thinks to pick up a dropped laser gun or study the tech for the betterment of the world, though.
    • The semi sequel/prequel Dissidia: Final Fantasy goes into detail about the backstory of some of the lost technologies from Final Fantasy I, which were only briefly touched upon in the original game.
    • Special Mention to Final Fantasy X, where the use of said lost tech, or Machina, is forbidden (With some specific exceptions) by the local Relgion/Psudogovernment Yevon due to it being the cause of human sin that is embodied in the giant whale monster Sin. There is a tribe of near humans, the Al Bhed, that ignore these teachings and are thus widely shunned. it's then you find out how hypocrital Yevon are.
  • A major element in Wild AR Ms 1 and Wild AR Ms 3. In fact, in the first game, the protagonist Rudy is made of lost technology, and one that nearly destroyed the world to boot.
  • Xenogears:
    • The game tends to flip-flop on whether Gears are or aren't lost technology. At the very least, Gears are dug up from ancient ruins, but it's painfully obvious that they can be tweaked and created via available tech in the more advanced areas. At the very least, the Omnigears are lost tech.
    • The remains of the Elridge, however, and the Zeboim civilization, very much fit the trope. The Merkaba, the "Treasure of Kislev," the Yggdrasils, and Emeralda herself are primary examples.
    • Carried through to its spiritual prequel Xenosaga, archeologists digging up the Zohar and building the Zohar Emulators, a technological bridge to higher planes of existence that is responsible for the historical divine miracles and a theoretically infinite source of energy. In true lost tech style these higher planes also contain the Wave Form Existence/God/Chaos/U-DO, the big bad of the series.
  • Secret of Mana centers around the attempts of the Big Bad to acquire the ancient world-destroying Mana Fortress and Mana Beast.
  • In Brain Lord, you fight through many gimmicky Lost Technology dungeons.
  • Chrono Trigger has different technology available in different eras. As the game is based on Time Travel, however, if something is Lost Technology in the modern era, you can go to the era where it was developed and where it's not "lost." note 
    • The Enlightened Ones of Zeal in 12,000 BC use Magitek that no era, not even the future, can match. However, when Man Grew Proud and Zeal fell from the skies, the knowledge of Zeal was Lost Forever. Though relics from the Dark Ages survive, such as the Masamune, the Sun Stone and the Pendant of the Guardia royal family, the power of magic was lost to humans, Magitek was never rediscovered, and technology in the future went down a purely nonmagical path.
    • In one specific case, the red mineral called Dreamstone was commonly used to make powerful technological and magical devices during the Dark Ages, but all sources of it have dried up by the modern era. This becomes a problem because, while Melchior has the technological and magical knowledge to reforge the Masamune, he doesn't have any Dreamstone to use in the alloy, necessitating a Fetch Quest in 65,000,000 BC.
    • Prior to The End of the World as We Know It in 1999, human technology had advanced to levels roughly equal to the Enlightened Ones, but all of that ended on the Day of Lavos. In 2300, humans are no longer developing new technology, and humanity only clings to existence by maintaining 300-year-old relic machinery. There is a facility that's building new machinery, but the robotic Mother Brain who rules Geno Dome is completely hostile to humans.
    • 65,000,000 BC is an odd situation. The Neanderthals are Stone Age hunter-gatherers, but their craftsmanship is good enough to develop weapons superior to anything available in the modern world, including guns and robotic arms. Though this is partly Gameplay and Story Segregation (especially the Stone Arm), at least part of it is implied to be through the use of Dreamstone, which the Ioka Tribe knows about but, as humanity has not yet evolved magical abilities, cannot utilize to its full potential. No weapons from 65,000,000 BC are known to have survived in any other era, but you can take them to the future yourself if you choose. Also, Elixir is freely available to the Ioka (and called Sweet Water), but after the coming of Lavos, the Sweet Water stops flowing and Elixir becomes a fairly rare item afterwards.
  • In Mass Effect, a large part of the story revolves around the galaxy's dependence on Applied Phlebotinum that were created by the Protheans, a mysterious race that died out 50,000 years ago. However, it is later revealed that the Phlebotinum were in fact Lost Technology to the Protheans as well; they were created nearly 1 billion years ago by either the reapers, a race of Mechanical Eldritch Abominations or their own Precursors, the leviathans, a race of Aquatic Horrors.
  • BioWare also invoked this Trope with Knights of the Old Republic. The Rakata technology and Star Maps were an unholy cross of well-built, heavily-guarded technology infused with the Dark Side of The Force. A virulent plague, slave revolts, warring amongst themselves, and a mutation rendering the species Force-deaf sent the planet back to the stone age. By the era of Darth Bane, the species is extinct, meaning any hope of recovering the tech is lost forever.
    • As detailed in other Expanded Universe works, the Force-powered hyperdrive used by the Rakatans was reverse-engineered by Correllians. Every hyperdrive built since then is based on the resulting designs, and even thousands of years later nobody completely understands the underlying principles of hyperspace.
  • Metroid's Chozo had marvelous technology, widespread over many a planet the player visits in a game, all of which Samus inevitably collects, blows up or uses during the plot to refill her Bag of Spilling. Ditto for their oneshot intergalactic Pen-Pals, the Luminoth.
  • The Xbox remake of Ninja Gaiden features a statue with floating stones. This power, it is said, "clearly shows that it was not made with modern technology" and "must be the product of an ancient age". It becomes important later.
  • The RPG Dokapon Kingdom actually has an item CALLED "Lost Technology." It unlocks a new character class, the Robo-Knight—male characters who use it become sentai-style mechs, while female characters become Robot Girls.
  • Mega Man Legends is all over this trope. From the setting to the plot to the Big Reveal at the end of the sequel to the world's money, it all has to do with Lost Technology.
  • Might and Magic. In the case of the first five games, possibly deliberately lost, to keep people from messing up with the experiment that is the reason why their worlds' names are written in all Capital Letters. From a certain point of view, the Big Bad is himself a piece of malfunctioning Lost Technology. Might & Magic 6, 7 and 8? The End of the World as We Know It resulted in a collapse of civilization bringing them down from energy-weapons to just being up to cannons a thousand years later, but some pieces of what was before are still around...
  • Av Kamiw in Utawarerumono. Basically, giant Evangelionesque mechas in a world where very few people like herbalists know of gunpowder, and fear it too much to use it. Game Breaker much? (They still go down to swords and arrows then it's the protagonists attacking, of course.) The last stage of the game is also set in an abandoned research laboratory that has a few crumbling remnants of working technology, but it's generally useless stuff like holograms that tell us about the backstory.
  • Neverwinter Nights gives us the incredible magic of the Old Ones (lizard-people precursors) (who used it to create a stasis shelter to protect them from global cooling) and the powers used by the people of Netheril to levitate their cities. In the Netheril case, it ultimately came from the mother setting, with an interesting explanation for why the ability to shear the tops of mountains and levitate them were lost: the old method to do so became impossible to use when the rules of magic were re-written.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 gives us the Illefarn Big Bad, created with Lost Technology, and their Song Portals (which can be duplicated at greater expense by modern magic.)
  • The Jak and Daxter games feature the shiny orange artifacts, structures, and machinery of the Precursors.
  • Tales Series:
    • Played with in Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Phantasia, where magitechnology was lost, but is just being rediscovered. In both cases, as well as during the 4000 years inbetween, one of the first pieces of technology to be reconstructed and rebuilt by archaeologist/scientists is the Mana Cannon, the superweapon the use of which destroyed the ancient civilizations that invented (and reinvented, and re-reinvented) magitechnology in the first place.
    • Played with further in Tales of Vesperia, which revolves around "Blastia": Lost Technology that is well-researched, widely-used and vital to modern life in the world. Even though the knowledge on how to create blastia has been lost, research has advanced to the point where basic preliminary models can be created. In another subversion of the usual formula, the solution to the heroes' problems is not using them.
  • In Tears To Tiara 2, the floating city of Tartetos has a bunch from the Precursors and earlier human times, including floating farms, buildings, and the floating city walls. The Holy Church is also actively suppressing knowledge, and many characters mention human technology that has recently been lost.
  • The earlier Shining Force games features a cast of traditional fantasy warriors, magicians, and creatures battling traditional fantasy evils. Except for the occasional sentient robot that survived through time to help the heroes.
  • In Phantasy Star IV, society has reverted to simpler, medievalish technology after the protagonists of Phantasy Star II destroy Mother Brain, a supercomputer that controls all technology. Unfortunately, without her guidance, the technology controlling the planetary systems like climate, tectonics, and defenses, goes haywire and makes life tough for the survivors. At least until the heroes beat the Big Bad and let benevolent androids resume control of the systems.
  • Dwemer technology in The Elder Scrolls series. Because the Dwemer studied the laws of nature as they were being created, they were able to manipulate said laws to empower and protect their creations in a way no other race can achieve.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The main premise of the Uldaman and Ulduar dungeons, and the Uldum complex, though the technology itself does not come up much.
    • Gnomeregan is a relative case, in that the advanced technology was only recently lost. The gnomes of World of Warcraft are the most technologicaly advanced people on Azeroth (all the way up to friging nuclear bombs) but they lost their city to a trogg invasion during the third war (some seven years ago at the moment) and with it the best of their tech. It is a lowbie dungeon now, was and one of the most run for all the engineering drops. They rely on slightly less advanced Steam Punk style tech now (but they still have shrink rays and rocket launchers), but spend their time trying to (fruitlessly) retake there home.
  • Assassin's Creed II has the Pieces of Eden being Lost Technology from a race that preceded humanity as the dominant species, appropriately called the Ones Who Came Before. They're true purpose is as of yet unknown but it may be part of a defense system to protect Earth from a solar flare. It should also be noted that according to Subject 16, they have many varied and versatile uses, since Tesla was planning on making free energy and a free global with the Fourth Apple, while Hitler used it to start WWII.
    • Assassin's Creed III reveals that the Pieces of Eden turned out (unexpectedly even to their creators) to have Clap Your Hands If You Believe properties. If enough people desperately wanted something while being the focus of a Piece, it would happen.
  • The fifth game in the Thunder Force series is about the discovery of a wrecked ship that humanity calls "Vasteel" ("Vastian's Steel" for short) and builds a line of technology based off it, including a supercomputer...which goes berserk.
  • Discussed in a tavern conversation in Infinite Space. A character notes that Adis' advanced technology is very close to the technology their precursors from Terra used to have, which leads another character to say the idea of their precursors had more advanced technology than the current generation is ridiculous. There are real examples, however, such as the Epitaphs, Void Gates and Cosmic Trade Authority.
  • Various artifacts from the Sindar civilization in Suikoden series.
  • The artifacts of the Xel'Naga in the Starcraft series. Even Protoss technology pales in comparison.
  • Retrieving their Lost Technology is one of the major reasons the Dwarves continue to launch expeditions into the Darkspawn infested Deep Roads in Dragon Age: Origins. Some of the lost thaigs still hold valuable secrets that could help turn the tide against the Darkspawn. Others have secrets that are better off buried and forgotten.
  • A few centuries prior to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, there was a thriving civilization made up mostly of sapient robots (and, probably, a related civilization that made the robots), with antigravity technology, mastery of electricity, and other technology to put modern Earth to shame. The civilization vanished around the time of a war against the Bigger Bad, and ancient ridiculously high-tech relics show up in dungeons and as monsters for the rest of the series, a span covering literally thousands of years.
  • Sword of the Stars is rife with Precursor-tech, unfortunately most of it is shooting at you in the form of random encounters. The Morrigi in particular were once much more advanced than they are now and most of their "research" is simply re-discovering what they're lost.
  • One form of treasure in the post-apocalyptic roguelike Caves Of Qud.
  • In the backstory of Dark Souls the Witch of Izalith and her Daughters of Chaos were originally wielders of flame sorcery. The Witch's disastrous attempt to recreate the First Flame with her Lord Soul of Chaos mutated her and most of her Daughters (only Quelana escaped unscathed). The original flame sorcery was lost and replaced by Pyromancy. The only traces of the original sorcery are the Demon Catalyst wielded by the Demon Firesage (the last practitioner of the flame sorcery whom you eventually kill) and the Izalith Catalyst that belonged to one of the Daughters of Chaos prior to the birth of Pyromancy.
  • Ar tonelico is absolutely swarming with semi-lost technology. There are a number of survivors from when the towers were originally built, but nearly everyone else can at most operate the doors and Reyvetail Cosmosphere connections. Controlling Tower Guardians is right out.
  • In the world of Arcanum, magical and technological civilisations cycle, so, naturally, this occurs a lot. While the current society is basically a fantasy world undergoing industrial revolution, achievements of the previous hi-tech civilization include steam robots, a mild Super Serum, a device that can resurrect dead (craftable of Vendor Trash, no less), a pistol that packs more punch than the game's resident BFG and another one that shoots plasma, and a device that can permanently kill a mage of tremendous power, which indirectly led to said civilisation's demise at hands of one such mage as a preemptive strike.
  • In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri and its expansion Alien Crossfire, Planet itself is one massive piece of Lost Technology. Known to the alien Progenitors as Manifold 6, it was part of a grant experiment to create sentient planets. The other 5 ended up going badly and wiped out the ancient Progenitor race, with their descendants working to rediscover lost tech. The two alien factions in the expansion, the Manifold Usurpers (who want to finish the experiment and ascend) and the Manifold Caretakers (who want to prevent another catastrophe) also bring with themselves Ogre-class Spider Tanks that are bits of left-over tech from their ancestors. They can't build new ones or even fix the ones they have. When their advanced scouts crash-land on Planet, they spent the following years on equal footing with humans, working to rediscover even their normal tech in order to build a Subspace Ansible and summon the fleet.

    Web Comics 
  • The dragons' Iridium Bomb in the second story arc of The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!.
  • Wapsi Square has the golem girls as well as the calender machine. The former were responsible for destroying the civilization that created them, while the latter trapped the world in a "Groundhog Day" Loop 1450 years long through 56 iterations until it was destroyed.
  • The town of Crestfallen in Serenity Rose is stated to be absolutely full of conjurations and sorcery that modern witches are totally incapable of replicating. Due to the mechanics of magic in this setting, this applies not only to the complexity of the things there, but to the fact that they are still around in the first place.

    Web Original 
  • In Fine Structure, one of the protagonists sends human civilization back to the stone age every time they get close to re-developing nuclear weapons. Nukes are Lost Technology and she intends to keep it that way.
  • Land Games: Farseer discovers his people once had weapons like those of the human players.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Futurama episode Mother's Day, Fry reinvents the wheel (which he shapes like an oval) after the robots rebel. This is however only a gag, as wheels are commonly seen in the show (particularly on robots).
    • In a later episode, the crew go to a museum to find and use a thousand year old weapon... The heat-seeker missile.
    • It's also been suggested that, at some point during the time that Fry was cryogenically frozen (possibly during the 24th Century), the world had experienced another Dark Ages. Yet, somehow, Fry remains cryogenically frozen during that time.
  • Many of the Arkadian devices in Spartakus And The Sun Beneath The Sea could count as Lost Technology; their creators died long ago and nobody today knows how to fix them - which is Very Bad because their artificial sun is dying.
  • Xyber 9, the Garden of the Ancients, battle medallions/battle armor, and probably most of the tech in the Underworld of Xyber 9 New Dawn.
  • In ThunderCats (2011) the Cats of the magical kingdom of Thundera, stuck in Medieval Stasis, consider technology to be the stuff of fairy tales they tell their cubs, and any physical evidence thereof as Worthless Yellow Rocks forged to take in the gullible. Young Prince Lion-O believes otherwise, and scours the Black Market for salvaged tech. Unfortunately, technology is very real, as their longtime rivals the Lizards prove when they ally with a benefactor to unleash a Super Weapon Surprise, using shockingly futuristic war-tech like Humongous Mecha and laser rifles to conquer the Kingdom of Thundera in one night.

    Real Life 
  • A great many of the Romans' construction techniques, such as how to make aqueducts, were lost for centuries once the Roman Empire collapsed, and the remains are still around today.
    • The Romans had used concrete to create buildings with domes. Once the Western Roman Empire fell, no large-domed buildings were able to be built until Brunelleschi's Cathedral of Florence was completed in the Renaissance. There were domes in the Middle East before the Renaissance, however, as they were inspired by the Hagia Sophia and other Byzantine churches. One of the reasons the secret of concrete was lost was because the Romans used a specific type of Italian volcanic ash as a binding agent. Attempts to duplicate the concrete recipe without access to that ash would fail, until a substitute was developed in the 1600s. Even modern concrete isn't quite as durable as the Roman type; some Roman buildings are still standing after 13 centuries or more.
    • The Romans used animal blood and liquefied tissue, mixed into their concrete, as a surfactant to create small bubbles. This made their cement exceptionally durable against things like water wear and temperature-related expansion and contraction and is the reason why many Imperial concrete structures and roadways are still standing over a millennium later, while concrete made between the empire's fall and the modern era has pretty much all disintegrated. The re-discovery of the technique of aeration in modern cement as an anti-wear devices dates roughly to the 1940s/1950s. Amusingly, the technology wasn't "lost" through some inadvertent disaster, just through Christian Europe's blatant refusal to do anything with the trappings of the competing religions (in this case animal sacrifice).
    • Also, depth in paintings; if you look at some of the murals from Pompeii, they might well have been painted in the 1600s for how realistic they look.
  • Even as The Dung Ages unfolded after the fall of the Greco-Roman cultures, people's ingenuity still worked, if their living depended on it. Something like this, but stronger and made of metal, you may find in your nearby hydropower plant, or in your car's turbocharger. But these turbines have been known at least since the Late Middle Ages in water mills. The best part of it? The craftsmen who built them were in most cases illiterate and most certainly had never known maths.
  • So-called "Damascus" steel has been lost for centuries since the original iron deposits in India ran out (there was a key impurity in those particular iron deposits). It was figured out in the late 1990's in Finland and there are now companies making bladestock from it. Modern bladesmiths have slowly been using it more and more. To prevent confusion with "Pattern-welded" steel, which was and is commonly referred to as "Damascus" steel, it is known by the original name for the ore: "Wootz".
    • Likewise, the pattern-welding itself was almost lost after the Middle Ages. It was kept alive by rifle barrel makers until metallurgy became a science instead of arts.
  • There is also Greek Fire, which could not be put out using water, of which the formula has been lost for ages. Today the problem of finding out what it was is more related to the fact that there are several options. There is more than one known way to make fire that can't be put out with water, as well as conflicting accounts of how Greek Fire actually behaved; some say it ignited on contact with water, others say it only needed to be exposed to air. Quite possibly it's a catch-all term for a number of different incendiary chemicals, some or all of which may have since been rediscovered.
  • The Antikythera mechanism was a mechanical device for computing the position of the Sun, Moon, and the planets from a date and time. Its parts are on par with 18th century clocks in terms of complexity. It was made in the 2nd century BC.
  • A tool similar in exquisite manufacture, reputation, mystique and expense to a classical-age violin is the classic double rifle from the golden age of African hunting. Contrary to what people may think, their number during The Edwardian Era was never large (the vast majority of hunters and workers in the African colonies could not afford something more expensive than a demilitarized rough and tumble bolt-action rifle) and insane expenses are needed to achieve in modern times the same performance it did 100 years ago. One may find out the hard way the $120,000 classic rifle once fired by Denys Finch Hatton needs a caliber which no factory has built since the 1950s, is regulated to a precise combination of powder (which is no longer manufactured) and bullet weight and aerodynamics that no archive search can find, and finally the modern target shooter lacks the Great White Hunter's talent, or is so different in body shape the rifle doesn't fit him or her the slightest bit.
  • Swordmaking. The European style sword was never a constant style of design, but reflected the contemporary era; of fighting styles, armour and enemies it was designed to dispatch. Once new designs were introduced, old ones were lost. The Medieval style swords were successfully duplicated only in the late 20th century by the X-ray crystallography, metallurgical analysis and also analysis of sword physics.
  • Cuir-bouilli. This is Medieval art of hardening vegetable-tanned leather into rigid and solid three-dimensional objects. These objects do exist, but the actual process has been lost. Modern experiments have produced similar, but not quite the same, objects. Likewise, the actual chemical process behind this art is still unresolved.
  • The so-called Baghdad Batteries (which are technically galvanic cells, not batteries). While significantly less powerful than that 99 cent Duracell you buy at 7-11, and requiring an entire vase (not a cheap item in those days), they were fully functional 1800 years ago. Naturally, this raised the question of why people made them in the first place. While no one actually knows for sure what their intended purpose was; archaeological evidence indicates that they were most likely used for electroplating gold (which would not require a large current); alternately, they could've been used to shock those who touched a religious object.
  • The schematics for the Apollo vehicles, which were written on computers that no longer function, and cannot be read with modern computers. See No Backwards Compatibility In The Future.
    • Not entirely. Most of the plans are on microfilm, and readers are readily available. Some parts may have been lost due to sourcing components from contractors who went under or due to the secretive nature of the project, however.
    • NASA engineers are forced to go to junkyards looking for the original parts from the missions. They then have to, effectively, reverse-engineer the designs based on the plans they don't quite understand (to be clear, they may understand that the part in the plan is a valve, but they have no idea why it's there, which is more important).
  • The A-10 Thunderbolt, only 715 of which were made, and in part has No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup (see here; the plans existed, but many of them were thrown away after the subcontractors went out of business), so spare parts have to be scavenged from non-functioning planes.
  • Nowadays there is an entire branch of archaeology dedicated to fabricate and use replics of ancient tools just to determine what the heck were they used for. It has helped greatly to understand prehistoric lithic industries, though there are still items of unclear function, such as the palaeolithic "sceptres" found in many places.
  • Techniques for forging relics, such as the Turin Shroud. It is generally believed to be a Medieval forgery, but thorough testing on its age continues to prove inconclusive due to just how well it was done. Other complicating factors include the fact that it was charred during a fire (which messes with the accuracy of carbon dating) and underwent several repair attempts, possibly causing it to be dated as much older or younger than it actually is.
  • Heron Alexandrinus (10-70 AD) made (supposedly first): steam turbine — ages before the piston steam engine that first got on trains and boats; several self-regulating feedback control systems — precursors of things like the regulator which made possible the steam engine (and again) as today know it; and a vending-machine — drop a coin, get a drink.
  • Heron also described earlier (attributed to Archimedes) inventions, including an odometer, both in taximeter and naval log variants.
  • According to Aristocles (2nd centrury BC), there was an alarm clock in Plato Academy.
  • Around 424 BC Boetians burned down wooden walls of Delium. With a bellows-powered flamethrower.
  • Aside of an organ (hydraulis), which was the first keyboard musical instrument ever — and, by the way, quickly found its place as a church organnote  — Ctesibius invented: a pump (ironically, it was lost in the fires that ravaged Alexandria); a water clock (a direct precursor to the flushing toilet); solar-powered mechanisms and a pneumatic cannon. In the third century B.C.
  • Archimedes, according to Leonardo da Vinci, also built a steam-powered cannon.
  • The Chinese magazine-fed crossbows (Chu-Ko-Nus) are rather famous, but there were more advanced forms. The first known chain-driven weapon was not "Chaingun", it was the chute-fed Repeating Catapult by Dionysius of Alexandria.
  • Fully mobile artillery was known at least in the Roman era. The Ballista quadrirotis was simply a two-horse cart with a ballista on top, but it was enough to make a field artillery with a significant level of maneuverability.
  • Götz von Berlichingen, the knight most renowned for his wit due to Goethe's homonymous play, had a mechanical prosthetic iron hand to replace his right hand and forearm lost in combat. It was so advanced anatomically that it could handle the reins of a horse, the shaft of a lance, a playing card and even a feather quill to write a letter. But there was one thing the 16th century lacked — the energy source (springs would be either too weak or too big) — the hand needed first to be tightened by the other hand around the object to be handled.
  • The field transistor predates the bipolar transistor by 22 years (Lilienfeld filled the first patent application in 1925), since the idea was much closer to the electron tube. It's unlikely that he really built it: considering the proposed scale and the quality of early semiconductors, it would not give a measurable amplification. But the principle was right, even though the theoretical basis was not yet developed.
  • Another Chinese example would be the south-pointing chariot, a mechanical compass working on principle of Cardan gear.
  • The pyramids of Ancient Egypt. Even today, there are scholars who argue as to how the pre-Bronze-age Egyptians moved all those multi-tonne stone blocks into place. (Since the advent of pourable concrete, the manipulation of enormous solid pieces of stone has basically become a lost art.)
  • Future Lost Technology in the works: The Clock of the Long Now is being designed and built to run for 10,000 years.
  • The medicinal and culinary herb silphium, extensively used by Mediterranean cultures in classical times, was widely believed to have gone extinct around the time of Nero. As it's unclear precisely what silphium actually was, researchers don't know if its suspected living relatives (asafoetida and giant Tangiers fennel) are the same plant under another name, or if it really did die out from over-harvesting and overgrazing of the Libyan coast.
  • Another biological mystery of the ancient world is the North African elephant, described as a buffalo-sized version of the African bush elephant, which is reputed to be untameable. Was it a subspecies of the latter, or a different species altogether? What exactly did the ancient Numidians and Carthaginians to train them? In the early 1900s the Belgians managed to train African forest elephants (now recognized as a different species) in the Congo, however, using the same techniques employed in South-east Asia to train Asian elephants. It is possible then that the North African elephant, like the forest elephant, was just small enough to be manageable, unlike its gigantic savanna brother.
  • There are cases of prehistoric peoples that colonized islands by boat, probably first discovering them in fishing trips to the ocean, and then stopped making boats and fishing altogether, even from the shore. The ancient Tasmanians even forgot how to make fire.
  • When the British first met the Lumbee people of North Carolina in the 18th century, they were told that their ancestors could "talk in a book" and "make paper speak", but they no longer did. One theory is that the Lumbee tribe absorbed the survivors of the English colony of Roanoke, disappeared with barely a trace around 1589.
  • Writing was completely lost during the Greek Dark Ages (ca. 1100–800 BC). The later Greek alphabet is an adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet, adopted at the end of that era.
  • Throughout much of Russia there are upwards of a hundred known abandoned scientific facilities that don't have an exact known purpose and quite isolated. It is more than possible that one of these stumbled on a major scientific breakthrough that was lost in the fall of the Soviet Union, even when one does not consider that there are more than likely even more interesting labs that modern society does not know about.
    • The Russian answer to the American Space Shuttle, the Buran program was canceled with the collapse of the USSR. The first shuttle had made its first and only space flight in 1988, before being put along with the other unfinished ships into undetermined storage, scavenged for parts and ultimately forgotten. What was left of the one flown Buran was destroyed in 2002, when its hangar collapsed upon itself because of lack of maintenance. What makes this tale even sadder? The Buran was more advanced than the Space Shuttle, and could fly unmanned.
  • Avro Canada had actually made working versions of many stereotypical "Sci Fi" concepts like flying cars, but when their flagship project the Avro Arrow was sunk, the company broke apart. There's even parts of various Avro projects being found and rumors of others.
  • With the retirement of the Space Shuttle, a number of observers said that manned space travel was becoming a lost technology, but there are a number of private space travel companies planning to offer a ride in space to those with deep enough pockets.
  • The flush toilet has been invented at least two dozens times, and lost at least half of that. One of its earliest users, the Indus Valley Civilization (26th century BC) also had a sewage system whose complexity wouldn't be matched until Roman times.
  • The use of Vitamin C as a cure for scurvy was discovered and lost several times before the 20th century.


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