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Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology

Riker: I've seen these things all over the ship. They all look the same: primitive, and... non-functional.
Picard: Ceremonial; and deceptively primitive.

To quote the main article, Bamboo Technology covers "the use of mechanisms with a level of technology closer to the Stone Age to achieve feats usually achieved with Industrial or even Modern Age technology."

Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology, on the other hand, covers mechanisms with a Stone Age (or other ancient period, like Bronze Age, Iron Age, Medieval Period, etc...) appearance but a High Tech function that is beyond the achievements of Industrial or Modern Age technology: primitive-looking but highly advanced technology. Like the Stone Age equivalent of Crystal Spires and Togas, this is very often used to illustrate how advanced a culture's technology is by making it blend in almost seamlessly with their environment and/or architecture.

Ancient Astronauts and Precursors have the interesting habit of building their technology to look like primitive artifacts. This is distinguished from classic Bamboo Technology in function but not in form. In this case, apparently primitive constructs are actually technologically advanced devices. A shield generator, ancient godlike computer, or powerful superweapon may resemble a monument, or idol, a small handheld artifact. Rock faces will hide glowing energy conduits. Crystals can do anything from teleporting of people and objects to enhancing latent psychic powers. Stone tablets with primitive carvings contain hidden machinery, or Nanotechnology, or some other Applied Phlebotinum. Ancient control centers and consoles will resemble temples and altars. In many cases, the technology is designed to mimic the appearance of Magitek, but is actually Applied Phlebotinum. Usually the aliens in this first variation are Precursors, Ancient Astronauts, or both, and inhabit the higher end of the Kardashev Scale, but there are exceptions. Though being "Sufficiently Advanced" is usually a characteristic of the makers of such technology, it's not required: Higher-Tech Species are known to adopt this style as well. Civilizations at the Crystal Spires and Togas level are very likely to use this kind of technology, often subtly blending it in with their surroundings or by making it appear decorative. The Artifact of Doom or the MacGuffin in a Sci-Fi setting, if of alien or other fantastic origin, is usually an example of this technology. Many a Power Crystal and Mineral MacGuffin are examples as well. The more ancient Lost Technology is, the more likely it will be an example of this trope.

Often, you will know when this sort of technology is working because Power Glows. Also note that many of the examples involve some form of psionic crystal, or are combined with psionic powers. Many an Advanced Ancient Acropolis is filled with such devices.

Compare: Insufficiently Advanced Alien; Low Culture, High Tech; Aliens Never Invented the Wheel; Crystal Spires and Togas; Higher-Tech Species.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Film 

    Literature 
  • High Crystal by Martin Caidin. Steve Austin tries to find a mysterious crystal. It's a power source left on Earth by space aliens.
  • Most of HPLovecraft 's Old Ones from the Cthulhu Mythos use this: they live (or used to) in cyclopean cities, sometimes filled with columns, the inhabitants they are incomprehensible and so are their designs. However, it's hinted their technology is so advanced, humans can barely understand it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Abused in the Stargate verse, mostly by the Ancients.
    • The titular Stargate itself being an example: an ancient stone, actually nigh-indestructible Applied Phlebotinum, ring unearthed in Egypt that opens wormholes to other planets.
    • Goa'uld staff weapons are another common example in the Stargate verse.
    • Even the Goa'uld warships look like pyramids.
    • The Nox and their technology (they are Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who disguise themselves as primitives) also follow this trope closely.
  • Several episodes of Star Trek:
    • The Cage (Pilot) and The Menagerie (S1E15/16): The Talosians use this sort of technology, including an elevator hidden in a rockface which leads to an advanced underground layer, and a viewscreen embedded in rock (probably an attempt to convey a flatscreen-like device) shows up in the episode as well. However, though their technology is impressive, the Talosians, who are all weakened survivors of an ancient nuclear war, have forgotten how to maintain it and now rely primarily on their psionic powers for survival.
    • The City on the Edge of Forever (S1E28): The Guardian of Forever resembles a doughnut-shaped stone slab, but it is actually a powerful device capable of Time Travel. It's also sentient, and claims to be extremely ancient, and neither a machine nor living being; and yet both. It (along with the rest of the planet) apparently exists outside of time, as anyone nearby will be unaffected by even the most radical alterations to the timeline. It also comes with an Advanced Ancient Acropolis in the background.
    • The Apple (S2E09): An ancient supercomputer that controls a planet's primitive population is built to look like a serpent-headed giant stone idol.
    • The Paradise Syndrome (S3E03): The Preservers built an obelisk on a planet inhabited by transplanted Native Americans. It turned out to be a voice-activated asteroid-deflector.
    • Errand of Mercy The Organians appear to be technologically backward but this is because they are actually incorporeal energy beings and everything on the planet is just props to help them more easily interact with corporeal creatures
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • The Last Outpost (S1E05): The remains of the Tkon Empire's outpost Portal 73 was a perfect example of a deceptively primitive appearance, complete with Stonehenge-like rock formations, Power Crystals...and a Huge Holographic Head.
    • Captain's Holiday (S3E19): The Tox Uthat, a device constructed in the 27th century and hidden in the past due to its potential use as a weapon of mass destruction, is capable of stopping all nuclear fusion inside a star. It looks like a palm-sized crystal artifact.
    • Gambit (S7E04/05): The ancient Vulcans constructed the Stone of Gol, a psionic resonator superweapon; it resembles a primitive stone artifact adorned by hieroglyphics and images of the ancient Vulcan pantheon.
    • Masks (S7E17): The ancient D'Arsay archive possesses the technology for the complete molecular restructuring of both living and non-living matter, but uses this capability to begin remaking the Enterprise into something resembling an ancient Mesoamerican temple and/or city, in line with the aesthetic of its vanished society.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Time's Orphan (S6E24): The ancient time portal on the planet Golana.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • The Q and the Grey The weapons used by the Q look like civil war era firearms but are in fact so powerful that the kickback alone can destroy entire star systems in neighboring dimensions
  • Blake's 7: Sinofar and Jiroc, representatives of a long-dead civilization, appeared to use a combination of this and psionic powers to interfere with a battle in space and teleport selected combatants to a ritual battleground.
    • The Seska on planet Xenon implanted psionic Dynamon Crystals in their necks through a kind of surgery, granting themselves telekinetic superpowers.
  • The reimagined Battlestar Galactica subverted this with the Arrow of Apollo (it didn't actually appear to have any special properties; being really just a museum artifact).
    • Played straight with ancient technology on Kobol in both the old series (technology inside pyramids that interacted with Adama's legacy disco medallion) and the new one (a planetarium show on Kobol projected inside the Tomb of Athena, a cave with an entrance disguised like a rockface).
  • Land of the Lost
    • The Pylons and Matrix Tables in the original series (and the rest of Altrusian technology, too, as well as the technology of the mysterious "Builders"). Since the Land itself was implied to have been constructed, the various colored crystals (psionic and otherwise — they have different properties depending on their color) also count. The Sleestaks and the Marshalls, on the other hand, used actual Bamboo Technology.
    • In the Nineties version, Shung's psionic crystal sword, as well as some other ancient technology encountered by the Porters. Similar to the original, the (possibly artificial) title "Land" contains deposits of powerful crystals that the Porter family uses as batteries, among other purposes.
  • Farscape: When the ancient Hynerians stranded their Acquaran subjects on their jungle planet, they designed the device that produced the anti-technology force field on the planet to look like a primitive stone statue of a royal Hynerian. From the Acquarans' perspective, the ancient Hynerians were Precursors, despite not being "sufficiently advanced" themselves.
    • The Darnaz Probes from "What Was Lost" Parts 1 and 2 are another example of powerful ancient technology designed to look like archaeological artifacts. Their purpose was to make the planet Arnessk, home to peace-engendering Eidelon priests, uninhabitable. It's never revealed who sent them, they are only referred to as "enemies of peace," but it's implied that they were the ancient ancestors of the Scarrans. The time-shifted Temple may count as this too, it's not clear how the priests of Arnessk accomplished that one, whether with technology or psionics.
    • D'argo's Qualta Blade is a marginal example of this trope. It's a powerful sword that transforms into an energy rifle more powerful than a Peacekeeper Pulse Rifle. It actually is ancient- it's been passed down through generations of D'argo's ancestors. Reinforced by the later appearance of Lo'laa, an ancient Luxan warship, which hinted that, contrary to their modern perception as "barbarians," Luxans may have been a Higher-Tech Species in the past.
    • The Aquarrans are an interesting case, as they are in fact aware that they themselves were once an advanced spacefaring people (and in fact were as technologically advanced as any others in that part of the galaxy). Unfortunately, the knowledge of their history was deliberately repressed by their priests to elevate themselves to a position of power in their society.
  • Babylon 5: The Minbari are generally the ones to disguise their technology as simple glass rings (in "The Gathering" pilot movie), crystals (a lot of their tech), stone constructs (the ancient Wheel of Fire), etc. Even the interiors of their starships look a bit like really shiny alien cathedrals, and the control centers of their major warships, the Sharlin-class warcruisers, resemble black voids with surreal levitating stones above a lighted circle where the command crew stands and observes the battle, which is projected holographically around them. The Minbari (or at least the religious caste) are obsessed with tradition, so this is in keeping with their on-screen portrayal. They are also a deceptive people who "never tell anyone the whole truth," so the fact that a lot of their technology is "hidden" from plain sight like this makes sense.
    • Centauri technology has aesthetics that are heavily reminiscent of the ancient Roman Empire as well as pre-Revolutionary France. Though their devices look gaudy and out of place alongside utilitarian-looking Human technology, it is actually far more advanced. Although much reduced in power by the time humans have entered the galactic community, the Centauri Republic is actually one of the most technologically-advanced Younger Races in the setting, second only to the Minbari.
    • From the same series, the Triluminaries, which although used by Minbari are not originally Minbari tech (they were given them by Valen, a "Minbari not born of Minbari," actually Jefferey Sinclair, arrived back in time from the future, with technology created by the same people who created the Great Machine on Epsilon 3). Despite their origin and abilities, they had a rather primitive look, not unlike Enik's Altrusian technology from the original Land of the Lost (see above).
    • The organic technology that a scientist brought aboard in a first season episode at first resembled some kind of ancient artifact before it began assimilating the scientist's assistant into a Living Weapon.
    • Several other ancient races on various episodes of its Spin-Off, Crusade.
    • The Shadows and Vorlons, however, generally averted this trope, as they used living technology and Living Ships. In an implied inversion of this trope, several characters, however, noted that the Vorlons sometimes use more primitive technology to hide how advanced they really are.
    • At least one of the First Ones travel in a starship that resembles nothing so much as a cluster of large stones. with light emanating from the joints. It is powerful enough to swat Vorlon and Shadow warships like flies.
  • An ancient Alien spacecraft discovered buried under an African beach on The X-Files appeared to be made out of stone and covered in ancient writing.
  • The Frozen Wheel from LOST: It looks Stone Age, but turning it manipulates space-time and teleports you to Tunisia.
  • The Shiba clan of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger runs on Sufficiently Advanced Edo-punk technology. What elevates it to this level is little details like the Shinkenger's Edo era fore bearers having the same Transformation Trinket that their modern counterparts do... a cellphone that becomes a calligraphy brush. Their mentor, Ji, even has one that appears to be made of bamboo.

    Music 
  • According to Pepe Deluxe's Queen of the Wave, the ancient Atlanteans had access to technology including interplanetary travel, iron automatons, Anti Matter lights, airships, aerial water generators, television, and astral projection. It's speculated in one of the online-exclusive album supplements that ancient atomic weapons may have been what destroyed Atlantis.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One of the many images in The Far Side featuring cave men showed two of them inventing a "Time Log" which could also fly, and which they used to travel to the modern day to gawk at the future.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the example NPCs in Genius: The Transgression is a genius from an alternative timeline where metallurgy never appeared. As a result, all her wonders have a stone age aesthetic. Players can also create characters like this, since the rules pretty much state that they can use any style they want.
  • Some of the Lizardmen/Slann items and even buildings in Warhammer Fantasy Battle are this. They look like primitive Aztec-style stone carvings or monuments but are actually the relics of a super-technological galaxy-spanning race "the Old Ones" who were forced to abandon their colony after a catastrophic failure of their warp-gates (that flooded the Warhammer world with Chaos).
  • A lot of Eldar and Necron technology in Warhammer 40K is of this nature. Eldar technology tends to resemble exquisitely carved bone, rendered in flowing organic shapes and studded with gemstones. High-ranking Eldar seers carry decorative spears, wear ribbed bone breastplates and cast bone runes from leather pouches. The "bone" in question is actually a highly advanced psycho-plastic substance called Wraithbone, and is shaped by the Eldar's formidable mental powers. The Dark Eldar use a similarly organic aesthetic, but with even weirder and much nastier devices at their disposal. Many of their most exotic weapons look like objects out of a fairy-tale, such as mirrors that shatter the individual reflected in them when they break, or caskets of malicious flesh-eating sprites. The Necrons, meanwhile, have such wonders as Resurrection Orbs (a glowing crystal sphere that enhances the repair protocols of the Necron Warriors), Sempiternal Weave (a highly advanced forcefield that looks like a scale-mail cloak) and various weaponised staves.
    • The more esoteric items of Imperial technology tend to look much less advanced to modern eyes than they are, frequently having a Medieval, Renaissance or Victorian (steampunk) aesthetic, with many time-stopping Stasis Grenades resembling nothing so much as a 19th century carriage clock. The weapon on the front of the Dark Angels' Nephilim Attack Fighter has the physical form of a stained-glass window, and its stasis bomb looks like a giant glowing hourglass. The more elaborate Imperial storm shields tend to look like highly decorated metal shields that would not have been out of place in the Classical or Medieval world.

    Video Games 
  • The Xel'Naga (Precursors) from Starcraft appear to have this. The few Xel'Naga artifacts encountered in the games are crystals and stone temples.
  • A lot of Chozo tech in the Metroid series looks like this. Chozo made a point of building their technology in harmony with nature, rather than against it. A lot of it appears to be stone or simple metalwork... and then the statues come to life and begin shooting high powered laser blasts and you realize just how advanced the Chozo were.
  • Some of the Ancients' technology in Might and Magic looked like this, the main example being a pyramid that was the part of a Generation Ship that had been preserved after landfall. Among other things, it has radiation-curing pools of water and vital command codes recorded on seemingly ordinary paper that has lasted for over a millenia.
  • Assassin's Creed: The technology left behind by The Ones Who Came Before is often futuristic in appearance, but is equally likely to appear as a crystal ball, a staff, a sword, or glowy stone carvings. In some cases, this was deliberate on their part, as they were attempting to Fling a Light into the Future and designed their technology to be recognizable and usable by future humans.

    Web Original 
  • In Orion's Arm, "clarktech" objects (technology invented by the Archai, which are so advanced that only planet-sized Artificial Intelligences can understand how they work) often look deceptively ordinary. For example, the dittocube looks like a child's wooden toy block.
  • Parodied in the Flash-animated series Stone Trek, which is an odd fusion of Flintstones and Star Trek. Their stoneship is made of rock and wood, and their reactor core is a portable volcano.

    Western Animation 
  • The Flintstones would occasionally feature various geniuses, mad scientists, or supervillains making use of this trope, inventing from Stone Age materials items that'd be more at home in the Jetsons' time-era (versus being a mere analog of modern-day technology). Among the examples:
    • A mad scientist in an original series episode invents a means of switching the minds of individuals (including the Flintstones, Rubbles, and even Dino).
    • A scientist at the Bedrock World's Fair in the original series invented a working (albeit not very well) time machine.
    • The Captain Caveman segments of The Flintstone Comedy Show (and later spinoff The Flintstone Kids) often featured various villains using highly advanced technology. In The Flintstone Comedy Show, supervillain duo Stormfront and Weathergirl had a weather-controlling ring; in The Flintstone Kids, recurring villain Mr. Bad once made use of highly functional robots.
    • The villain in the movie, The Man Called Flintstone, uses the series's Modern Stone Age technology to build missiles, and it's implied that the government is too. A TV special, Fred's Final Fling, had shown that cave-humanity had already flung boulders into orbit by the series's time.


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