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This trope is when modern-day/near-future humans discover that they actually had a super advanced society eons ago, in pre-history. In other words, Homo sapiens are their own Precursors. This prehistoric civilization, for whatever reason, fell or disappeared before our recorded history began, thus explaining why nobody knew about it before. Oftentimes they lived in an Advanced Ancient Acropolis which they'll leave behind for present explorers to marvel at.

Compare Human Aliens, Adam and Eve Plot, Earth All Along. For a specific Sub-Trope of this, see Atlantis (depending on how advanced it's depicted as being). For any species that came before us, including aliens, see Precursors. Compare Ultraterrestrials, when an alien species turns out to also be from Earth but developed and left way in pre-history (before humans were around). Often overlaps with Humanity Came from Space. When the story is set in a future where humanity is extinct, see Humanity's Wake. See Humanity Is Advanced where humanity is the current Advanced Alien. If we have evolved to the point that these guys are not immediately recognizable as human, they may also be Original Man.

(Some of the below examples might be spoilers, so be careful!)


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dr. STONE: Inverted where it is Modern day Humans that were the more advanced civilization before all of Humanity was transformed into Stone Statues and was stuck for 3700 years, causing all of their structures and technology to slowly corrode and rust away. The reason why there are non-petrified humans are because they are the descendants of six Astronauts that were on the ISS at the time that came back down to Earth and started repopulating. Senku shares this information with Chrome, vowing to restart Human Civilization once again as The Kingdom of Science.
  • The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Happens with the people of Mu and Atlantis being the precursors.
  • Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne: It turns out that the "aliens" who drive the plot are actually this.
  • The Laws of the Sun: Before modern humans populated the planet, the Venusians and other human-like races under their care, the people of Mu, and the Atlanteans' civilizations were extremely advanced. However, such advances become their undoing as this made them forget their spiritual heritage, persecuting and destroying anyone who dared to acknowledge it. As a consequence, these people fall into Hell in droves upon dying and possess other living people as well, leading the Earth's consciousness to awaken every time this happens and cause cataclysms to cleanse the planet.
  • Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet: The Galactic Alliance and the Hideauze are this to the people of Gargantia.
  • In later chapters of the original manga version of Black Magic M-66, the cyberpunk human civilization scours the surface of their home-world in a genocidal war with their bioroid creations. Venus never recovers, but the handful of refugees who make it to Earth flourish. Many of Black Magic's themes, including more oblique references to Precursor humans, reappeared in Appleseed.
  • Masamune Shirow also plays with this in his second work, Orion. The main story takes place billions of years before present, in a multi-galactic Human precursor civilization. Many of the main characters and their personalities are based on Shinto or Buddhist deities or the Cthulhu Mythos.
  • RahXephon: The Mulians are an example. Bahbem says in the final episode that the titular weapon was developed and used by him over ten thousand years ago.
  • Nasuverse:
    • Humans long ago established many civilizations thanks to gods ruling over them, particularly that of Atlantis, the progenitor of Greek civilization and the domain of the Twelve Olympians/Pillars/Machine Gods. All these civilizations came to an end when the alien Velber came to harvest civilizations and their data, which entailed deploying the White Titan Sefar on Earth to slaughter everything in its path. Humanity has long since forgotten about this time period, with their records only dating back to the dawn of modern civilization in Mesopotamia.
    • In Fate/stay night, Gilgamesh is disgusted with modern civilization for exactly this reason. During his reign, humanity was a very powerful and advanced race. Gilgamesh believes humanity has declined because there are so many humans now, and the intrinsic strength of humanity has become diluted in each human as a result. The reason he desires the Grail is because he wants to bring that golden age back by using the Grail to kill most of humanity. He would then rebuild his kingdom with the worthy survivors. The disturbing part is that due to the way magic works, there's a good chance he's right.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics villain King Kull is the last survivor of a highly-advanced Neanderthal-like race, who had enslaved primitive humans until these revolted and killed them all. Kull escaped by placing himself in suspended animation until the present day, where he became an enemy of Captain Marvel.
  • Hellboy and related series have the ancient Hyperboreans, who lived untold millennia ago in a majestic, utopian society that had mastered the power of the vril. Their corruption and fall may have caused the last Ice Age. Survivors built Atlantis and other legendary cities, and taught the secrets of vril to a few humans, before disappearing entirely. They may not have been precisely human, but looked pretty much the same as us and are considered one of the "races of man" - though the frogmen are considered the next race of man, so take that as you will.
  • The Eternals of Marvel Comics. They were genetically modified millions of years ago by a race of alien Precursors, and have lived alongside us the whole time, using their vastly superior technology (they were flying into space 750,000 years ago) to remain hidden or pose as gods.
  • In All-Star Comics #52, the JSA encounter four kings who are the last of a race of advanced humans that ruled the Earth 100,000 years ago. The kings are Sealed Evil in a Can, but naturally escape their prison and incapacitate the team before heading out to take over the world. In the end, they kill themselves when they're caught in a nuclear explosion of their own making.
  • Martin Mystere has no less than four of these:
    • The oldest of them is Daytia, that, thanks to help from aliens, developed such an advanced technology they one day created the Red King, and self-destructed themselves to contain it and save the world from their error. All that remains of them is the containment systems of the Red King, situated under Roanoke, whose colony was not destroyed by the Daytian devices but a life-killing bomb from Mu that had been dropped there during a war with Atlantis but did not explode, and was found and accidentally triggered by the colonists.
    • After Daytia there was Rupa, destroyed in an environmental cataclysm. Martin actually thought they were Daytia until the last guardian of the Red King set him straight.
    • Finally, there are the classics, Atlantis and Mu. They fought multiple wars, the last one ending in mutual destruction. Atlantis however left behind some outposts and various living weapons, such as dwarves, mermaids (shown in Dylan Dog to have been driven to extinction, or close to it, by human pollution), the Green Men (a failure as they are pacifists, and also driven to near extinction by pollution), and many others.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Continuing on from what Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) established, the ancient civilization of Mu are implied to have been this.
  • Child of the Storm hints at this, with immortal necromancer Gravemoss noting that in reference to Namor in his office as King of Atlantis (and as someone that he, Gravemoss, would not want to face) that Atlantis used to be a) on the surface, b) considerably more powerful, going by the remark 'even though it [Atlantis] was not that which had ruled in times of old.'
  • In Jordan179's My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic series, including Nightmares Are Tragic, Fluttershy Is Free, A Meeting By Moonlight and others, the Ponies of the "Age of Wonders," which perished in the Cataclysm 4000 years ago, are this to the present-day Equestrians. The Age of Wonders had electronics, nuclear energy and spaceflight. A major theme of the series is that high technology is a good thing, and that modern Equestria is once again on the road to the stars. This concept is directly based on Alex Warlorn's use of My Little Pony Tales in his Pony POV Series universe.
  • In The Bridge hints established in the Heisei Godzilla, Gamera, and Rebirth of Mothra series (which were combined thanks to a Shared Universe Retcon) were expanded upon. 77,000 years ago humanity had a full knowledge of mana using magic, lived alongside The Fair Folk, had Magitek advanced enough to control the weather and build floating cities; and now mythical civilizations like Atlantis and the Mu empire were very real. And then the Big Bad came along and enacted the Toba Catastrophe, wiping out almost all sentient life. The effort to seal him away under Attu Island took away most of the world's magic.
  • Pokémon Rejuvenation has the Garufa, an ancient tribe from hundreds if not thousands of years before the game is set. They had powerful magic but didn't use Pokemon (though they were symbolised by Solrock and Lunatone). While the tribe doesn't exist anymore, there are a few characters who are descended from the Garufa, and others who try to use their magic, with varying degrees of success.
  • Kaiju Revolution: Several entries establish that roughly one million years before the present day, earth was ruled by a race of humans that had managed to achieve advanced technology such as self-sustaining nuclear reactors, high-tech weaponry and even space travel through the study of earth's kaiju. However, this society would eventually collapse from both attempting to control the kaiju and from waging war on each other using ones they created, the survivors were split apart and became different Human Subspecies. The ones living on Mu and around Mothra would become the Seatopians and Shobijin respectively after assimilating the ambient kaiju DNA of their homes, the ones living in the Tibetan region would become the Watchuka, the ones living on Skull Island became the Iwi and those that fled into space became the Morlocks. It's also mentioned that some survivors lost everything and were forced to restart from scratch, eventually becoming modern day humanity.

    Films — Animated 
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire revolves around an Atlantis inhabited by humans who had a technologically advanced society centuries ago before they were submerged beneath the ocean by a self-inflicted disaster.
  • Castle in the Sky: The Laputians uncovered the secret to mining and refining Volucite into the engines used to keep their empire aloft. They also created advanced robots with Energy Weapons and even a Wave-Motion Gun Kill Sat with which to dominate the Earth below. They appear to have died out hundreds of years before the start of the movie and all of their cities aside from the titular Laputa have fallen back to the ground from a lack of maintenance.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): The Advanced Ancient Acropolis suggests the civilization who built it was this, and Mike Dougherty confirmed it on his Instagram account. The Titans were once worshiped by a widespread semi-subterranean civilization that existed roughly 20 000 years ago and possessed technology comparable to the Romans; implied to have been annihilated when the Titans lashed out against tribes who sought to use them for war. It's also indicated this civilization is the precursor of all other civilizations and cultures due to containing elements of other prehistoric cultures — Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Mayan, etc. While this is only briefly discussed in the film, the novelization and redacted text in the end credits go into more detail about it. This is also further explored in Godzilla vs. Kong, with even more sprawling elaborate underground cities.

  • In Danger — Human!, ancient humanity was a space-faring warmongering race that nearly conquered the galaxy several times, only falling apart because of the human empire collapsing from within.
  • Andrey Livadny's novel Ark heavily implies that the planet that the titular Moon-sized starship (it is the actual Moon, hollowed-out and rigged with engines) crash-lands on is Earth in distant past, especially since the first person out of the ship is a shepherd named Noah. Oh, and the crash happens to have emptied (or parted, perhaps) a sea. Apparently, the giant ship has somehow traveled back in time. The author obviously ignores the consequences of a Moon-sized object hitting Earth (not to mention a giant spherical mountain that we have somehow missed).
  • The Book of Swords fantasy series touches upon an "Old World" which was technological rather than magical. The "modern" humans in the story don't even begin to understand it.
  • In Empire from the Ashes by David Weber, the Moon turns out to be a giant ancient human starship, and all humans on Earth are the descendants of its crew.
  • The Forerunner Saga novel Halo: Cryptum reveals humanity had a galaxy-spanning empire several hundred millennia ago, but lost it all in a war with the Forerunners, who then forcefully degenerated their society.
  • The Giants Series of novels by James P. Hogan revolve around the discovery that Homo sapiens actually evolved on the now-destroyed planet Minerva between Mars and Jupiter, where they developed an advanced civilization over forty thousand years ago.
  • In Whitley Strieber's novel The Greys, the Nordic Aliens were said to come from a Lost Colony of Earth founded 150,000 years ago.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, humans are the descendants of the Golgafrinchans. They sent the most useless third of their population (phone sanitizers etc.) to crash land on Earth. The entire remaining population was then wiped out by a plague contracted from a dirty telephone.
  • Known Space: If one defines "human" broadly (as in, "the genus Homo", because they show up in our fossil record as Homo habilis), then the Pak, in Ringworld and its sequels, certainly count. They built the eponymous Big Dumb Object with energy-matter conversion technology, collected species from throughout the Milky Way and preserved them on the Ringworld, and built a star-spanning empire without hyperdrive. Their technological achievements actually frightened the Pierson's Puppeteers, a race that turned their home planets into spaceships (admittedly, scaring Puppeteers is easier than it should be).
  • In the Noob novels, the Order's backstory makes the inhabitants of Syrial this. When their capital first appears, the royal palace turns out to have an elevator and part of the story takes place on a flying palace, both of which are implied to be some kind of Magitek. Nothing surprising so far except that the Empire, another faction, found Imported Alien Phlebotinum and developed its own technology... centuries if not millennia after Syrial got frozen in time, Unpersoned and surrounded by a Perpetual Storm that made it inaccessible to humans by the world's gods. Syrial gets introduced while it's "thawing" from its time freeze and the storm is calming down, which lasted several more millennia after the Empire's discovery of technology. The fact that the Syriallians managed to make something that the Empire and the Coalition considered a threat (the aforementioned flying palace was meant to bombard their home bases with powerful explosives) is hence quite remarkable, despite how much their king worried about his people having become obsolete.
  • The punchline of the Frank Herbert short story "Occupation Force" is that the aliens who just landed in Washington DC are just checking up on a colony they founded...roughly seven thousand years ago.
  • Andre Norton's Operation Time Search. The fabled civilizations of Mu, Atlantis and others really existed and had highly advanced magitek. In the original timeline they were all destroyed as a result of the evil actions of Atlantis, but the intervention of an accidental time traveler changed history so they still existed in the present.
  • The Paratime Police assign timelines to 'Levels' based on whether or not the people in them remember their race came originally from Mars.
  • In the massively convoluted history of the Perry Rhodan universe, there are several precursor species that turned out to be either human or descended from a common ancestor. Specifically, Atlantis was colonized by the survivors of an alien expedition who were, unknown to themselves, actually descended from the last interstellar civilization to arise on Earth (see below).
    • The usual iconic example, though, is the Lemurian Empire (centered, naturally enough, on Lemuria, i.e. Earth), which existed around 50,000 BC until it fell in a war against Halut. Many "modern" humanoid cultures in the setting's Milky Way galaxy (and some over in Andromeda) can directly trace their ancestry to refugees and abandoned colonies from that conflict.
  • In Princess Holy Aura there is Lemuria, which Silvertail came from, which had very advanced knowledge of magic and its applications.
  • The Second Sleep by Robert Harris at first appears to be set in the late Middle Ages. It is even explicitly stated to be set in the year 1468. However it is actually set some 800 years in the future, with the world having reset its dating system after an undefined - though implied to be a general failure of computer technology - apocalypse that led to the total collapse of 21st century society, with the date of the apocalypse, some time around our year 2025, retroactively labelled as Year 666. Remnants of 21st century technology have survived, but their study and use is strictly prohibited by a society that believes that "The Ancients" (i.e, us) were led to sin by their reliance on technology and punished by God.
  • Similarly, the Shannara series offers occasional glimpses of a technological era that preceded the current magical one. Antrax, the Big Bad of the eponymous book in The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, is a malevolent supercomputer that survived the end of said era, designed to guard its knowledge.
  • A somewhat weird example: In Terry Pratchett's early sci-fi novel Strata, a human explorer ends up on an obviously artificial disc-shaped 'Earth' inhabited by medieval humans (and stuff like demons, djinni and dragons). She ends up launching a project to transfer the disc's inhabitants from their failing world to a newly-built planet, which is very strongly implied to be our Earth. It gets weirder, though, with the second part of the Twist Ending: The entire universe turns out to be artificial, made by the same Sufficiently Advanced Aliens that produced the disc... who then colonized it, voluntarily forgetting about their origins to become ordinary flesh-and-blood 'natives'. So basically, humanity ends up being its own precursor twice over.
  • In Dean Koontz's Twilight Eyes, at some point in the distant past humanity had a highly developed civilization, including genetic engineering. They created a race of evil shapeshifters that went out of control and destroyed civilization so thoroughly that modern humans can't find any trace of it.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's "Some Words With A Mummy" mocks ideas at the time claiming the Egyptians could not have built the Pyramids. When a group of scientists use electricity to revive a mummy, he not confirms they did indeed build the Pyramids but had technology far more advanced that was available in the 1800s, along with living much longer due to having far better medical knowledge.
  • Stephen Baxter's Manifold setting plays with this. It doesn't apply in the first book because the Downstreamers are actually time travelers from the far future, but the second and third books, as well as some of the short stories, take place in various universes that the Downstreamers created at the end of the first book, where variations on humanity were guided to evolve as experiments under different conditions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ancient Aliens theorizes that various ancient human cultures such as the Egyptians had higher technology based on or given by Ancient Astronauts. The ancient Bolivian city of Pumapunku, for example, is claimed to have been built 17,000 years ago with diamond-studded tools that didn't exist until the 20th century, though this is more of a case of the documentary's frequent number skewing and distortion of the facts; the actual city is less than 3,000 years old and is built with soft stones that the basic metal tools of the time could chisel.
  • In Battlestar Galactica (2003): The ancestors of the colonial humans were more advanced than the main characters thought, having built Cylons on Kobol before branching out into the colonies. In the finale it's revealed that the whole show has been set nearly 150,000 years ago, meaning their advanced society predates ours.
  • Blake's 7 had a couple of episodes that implied a human(oid?) galactic civilization existed tens of thousands of years before the present.
  • Subverted by Fringe, which built the mysterious "First People" into its mythology starting in the second season and really taking off in the third... only to reveal that the "First People" were actually the main characters who sent technology back in time for their past selves to find in order to heal the damage done to the universe by technology run amok… or something like that. It was never explained just why they had to invent a whole ancient hieroglyph aesthetic for the world-saving machine, unless they actually wanted to convince people that they were some kind of ancient civilization of humans that evolved billions of years before the dinosaurs (stretching scientific credibility so thin you can see through it).
  • Space: 1999: The episode "The Testament of Arkadia" has the crew of Moonbase Alpha discover that Earth was settled from another planet 25,000 years ago.
  • In Stargate SG-1 the Ancients turned out to be human, albeit originally from a different galaxy and who manipulated evolution on earth to produce the current Milky Way humans. The Ancients are biologically indistinguishable from modern humans, but technologically? They built the stargate network. And that's not even scratching the surface.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In the episode "Probe 7, Over and Out", Cook has a spaceship and Norda came from another planet, so she probably had one too. Their first names turn out to be Adam and Eve.
  • Wonder Woman (1975): In "Fausta, the Nazi Wonder Woman", Wonder Woman tells us that the Amazons of Paradise Island have "existed in peace and happiness for twenty-six centuries", thus predating the Roman Empire. They have guns, invisible planes, telepathy, and each Amazon has Super-Strength.

  • The Elder Race of Man from the Rock Opera 2112 by Rush. A culture that valued creativity and the arts, the Elder Race was at some point thought destroyed and replaced by the Solar Federation. Word of God says the final track in the series is meant to represent the return of the Elder Race and the defeat of the culturally repressive Federation.

  • A frequent theme in Theosophy and related authors like Edgar Cayce, Drunvallo Melchizedek and Julius Evola. According to them, modern humanity had not only one, but 6 more advanced precursor civilisations who all destroyed themselves. Some of them were reptilian and energy beings. Some others had Dinosaurs as pets. Current humans descended from them following a cataclysm which destroyed the last ancient civilization (often Atlantis). Theosophy provided the inspiration for this trope in many science fiction stories. Perhaps the first to claim this was Irish-American politician Ignatius Donnelly, arguing that all of the ancient civilizations which we know about (Mayans, Egyptians, etc.) were descended from Atlantean colonies which lost contact with each other once Atlantis was destroyed. Slightly less extreme claims of a global ancient advanced civilization once existing which birthed all those coming after have also been made, though archaeologists have repeatedly said it doesn't hold up.
  • Many creation scientists propose that the civilization before Noah’s Flood was highly advanced.
  • The Indus Valley has a much higher background radiation field than the rest of Asia. Hindu Mythology contains references to aircraft (Vimaans), tanks (Juggernauts), and city-breaking superweapons that left dangerous fallout (Brahmastras), leading some to hypothesize that it's actually a Future Imperfect retelling of a nuclear war. There is no archeological evidence of this so far, though, but it hasn't stopped some from claiming all these things really existed then.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The ancient history of Warhammer 40,000 speaks of an era called the Dark Age of Technology, when humanity was at its peak and had essentially conquered the galaxy. Then everything went horribly wrong. Over fifteen thousand years later, the Imperium of Man still uses what technology remains from the Dark Age, but ascribes its functions to machine spirits. To give some perspective to just how advanced, Space Marines have nigh-invulnerable (fluff-wise) Terminator armor that's extremely difficult to produce, and at least one human spaceship is armed with an archeotech weapon that essentially uses the laws of reality as ammunition, by creating small temporary black holes which also distort time so that even if they miss, the enemy is teleported nanoseconds back in time to occupy the same position as their past selves simultaneously, resulting in both versions being destroyed. The Terminator Armor was used as the template for dangerous mining and maintenance work, while the Reality Warper gun was used not to kill spaceships but merely damage them. It's all but stated that despite the scale and power of current era humanity, they're barely scratching the surface of what they could once use.
    • Uniquely, the Dark Age of Technology is ancient from the perspective of Warhammer 40,000, which takes place sometime around the year 40,000CE. The Advanced Ancient Humans of 40k are, from our standpoint, Advanced Future Humans.
    • Note also that the "Dark" is a misnomer: the Ecclesiarchy considers it a dark age because there was no God-Emperor and therefore no faith, despite the incredible technological advances made that made mankind one of the powerful and united species in the galaxy.
  • Comes up multiple times in Chronicles of Darkness:
    • Mage: The Awakening uses this in conjunction with Atlantis to explain why mankind no longer has magic. The ancient sorcerer-kings of Atlantis ruled with wisdom and compassion until the Supernal War that tore Atlantis, and reality, asunder. Of course, this is the story told by the people who have a soft spot for Atlantis.
    • Mummy: The Curse goes a step further, by claiming that the civilization Irem is so ancient it surpasses Atlantis in age. They were so advanced, their priests could even devise a ceremony to ascend to godhood. It didn't work as well as they hoped, and their gods slapped them down.
  • In Pathfinder there was ancient Thassilon, a human kingdom that existed over 10,000 years ago where humans not only reigned in great power but were (at least in 1st edition) superior to present day humans (having a +2 to all ability scores instead of just to one) and was ruled over by seven powerful wizards called the Runelords each of whom was the absolute master of one of the seven schools of magic. The empire fell when the Aboleths tried to wipe out all life on the planet with a poisonous meteor that took the sacrifice of three deities to downgrade from "Planet-wide extinction" to "post-apocalypse". At least three of the first edition adventure paths deal with the runelords trying to return and reassert their dominance over Golarion.

    Video Games 
  • The Azrans from Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. Curiously, since they're stated to have existed 1 million years ago, they wouldn't technically be humans, at least not anatomically-modern humans, which are the sole surviving subspecies of the Homo genus - every other species of human went extinct during the last ice age, which occurred less than 1 million years ago, so the exact taxonomy of the Azrans is ambiguous.
  • Halo:
    • Continuing from The Forerunner Saga, Halo 4 gives us our first visual look at the prehistoric spacefaring humanity, including its Lord of Admirals, Forthencho. Bungie's original plan was for the Forerunners and humans to be one and the same; they were later changed to be two separate rival species.
    • It's also revealed that the war that the ancient humans started with the Forerunners was merely an attempt by the humans to contain the Flood. The Forerunners weren't yet aware of its existence, and thought the upstarts were merely being aggressive apes who sterilized their colonies for kicks. It didn't help that the two species were already major rivals, with both believing themselves to the rightful inheritors of the Mantle.
    • Interestingly, the advanced "humans" were actually a hugely diverse group of different Human Subspecies with distinct cultures (and at least some intelligent non-human ape species as well; despite being more biologically distant, they were apparently still considered "human" by the ancient human empire), but after the massive casualties taken in their wars and being confined to a single world by the Forerunners, all but Homo Sapiens eventually died off.
  • Bungie's post-Halo series Destiny plays with this trope. The games takes place in the wake of humanity reaching a Golden Age of space travel only to be nearly being wiped out, and with the players now navigating the ruins of that lost society. But that advanced civilization was founded in the future, so modern humanity is actually the ancient advanced ones.
  • The Kingdom of Zeal from Chrono Trigger. The game is initially set in "1000 AD", and Zeal takes place in "12,000 BC" (i.e. 13,000 years prior). The Kingdom was a mighty civilization with both advanced technology and access to powerful magic. Unfortunately, they wanted to use a new source for all this which was a sleeping Eldritch Abomination who woke up from that and wiped them from the map (almost literally; their civilization existed on a floating continent that was destroyed and fell into the ocean).
  • The Zeboim Civilisation in Xenogears, which has a similar role to the Zeal Kingdom of Chrono Trigger, similarly, it is revealed that humanity did not originate on the planet on which Xenogears takes place, and is only there because Deus crashlanded a ship on it
  • Whatever previous group of people that left behind the ancient ruins in a game of Civilization. If you recover technology from one of the ruins, it will always be one more advanced than the ones you already have, which means you can recover industrial or modern technologies if you happen upon one late in the game.
  • The Mu in Mega Man Star Force are this. Not only did they have everything that was a recent innovation for the modern humans, but a great deal more.
    • As well as the ancient civilization that colonized the other planets of the solar system and created the Stardroids in Mega Man V. May or may not be the same people, since the timeline of both series is (theoretically) the same up until the beginning of the 21st century.
  • Assassin's Creed: The Precursor race known as The Ones Who Came Before apparently co-evolved with what later became modern humans, and were capable of sharing genetic material with them and possibly interbreeding, making a cross between this trope and Ultra Terrestrials. And they created the first humans as slaves. The slaves rose up, and a great war took place, and the only remaining signs of them are individuals with some First Civilization DNA, like Desmond and his ancestors, and the artifacts they left behind.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, the ancient civilization of Vendigroth had technology in advance of anything that Arcanum's recent industrial revolution has developed; including medicinal compounds that can resurrect the dead, mass-produced Clock Punk automatons, schematics for the most powerful gun in the game, and a technology powered Macguffin that allows you to kill the Final Boss.
  • One of the big twists of Utawarerumono is that all the Little Bit Beastly Half Human Hybrids are genetically engineered organisms. The game does not take place in Fantasy Counterpart Culture of twelfth century Ainu Japan but a future Earth and Hakuoro is one of the very last surviving pure-blooded humans. Hakuoro is also edging towards Humanoid Abomination which explains his longevity.
  • In the Star Ocean series, an Earthling civilization had a hyper-advanced society on the lost continent of Mu in the Pacific Ocean.note  The continent was destroyed in a meteor impact, which somehow teleported the some of the inhabitants to other planets.
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order: The Reveal of the game is that the Da'at Yichud, a secret society that created anti-gravity and advanced robotics technology centuries ago, the very society that the Nazis stole and reverse-engineered their game-winners from, is Jewish and still surviving. Their key to survival was pursuit of god through knowledge, which meant that almost nobody leaked the secrets or used them to conquer the world like the Nazis did, and the technology kept improving without stagnation. That means in this universe, by their own logic, the Jews are the properly advanced culture and the Nazis are winning by cheating.
  • In Deadfall Adventures, the Heart of Atlantis was created by "an ancient people, long before any known human civilisation".
  • Diablo III reveals that the humans of Sanctuary are descended from an ancient race called the Nephalem, who are themselves descended from angels and demons. Their power was such that they were more than a match for angels and demons alike, so the Worldstone that was used to create Sanctuary was tuned to weaken their power. When Baal corrupted the Worldstone in a bid to unleash Hell on Earth and Tyrael was forced to destroy it, the power of the Nephalem began to reappear.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: The Ancient Lydians who created teleporters from their investigations of saecelium technology, and the Ancient Somnians who made nuclear weaponry.
  • In Stellaris, it's possible for a human Fallen Empire to be generated in a game map, combining this trope with Humanity Came from Space.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: The Sheikah are portrayed as having once produced lots of advanced futuristic Magitek, to the point that the Kingdom of Hyrule deliberately abandoned the technology out of fear of its power and only dug it back up 10,000 years later to use it against Calamity Ganon.
  • After Armageddon Gaiden has two ancient human civilizations with advanced technology, Atlantis and Mu. A series of events led to both civilizations being destroyed and sinking beneath the sea thousands of years ago, leaving behind many ruins.
  • Final Fantasy: In the original version, this is indicated by the Floating Castle (AKA Flying Fortress) is an orbital space station, referred to as a castle in-game because the characters don't have any other vocabulary to describe it. This is why you can see the stars out the windows and it's full of robots and other high-tech trappings. It also means that the "prosperous nations" of the past had access to super-modern technology and that the scope of devastation inflicted by Tiamat and Kraken is much more extensive than you first thought.
  • Final Fantasy XIV had the ancient Allagan Empire, which ruled over most of Eorzea in the past. The Allagans had a ton of advanced technology (facilities, machines, etc) whose remains can be see in the present time, but almost no one knows how to use them or even know what they are. By Endwalker, it's revealed that there was a civilization that's far older and more advanced than the Allagans; a race of people who were so skillful with manipulating aether and use of creation magicks that they could create lifeforms with ease. When the Final Days wiped out all but three of the ancients, one of the remaining three would build the Allagan Empire many years later. Unlike the Allagans, there are no traces of the civilization from the ancient past in the present.
  • In Machina of the Planet Tree -Planet Ruler-, the previous civilization dubbed the "Old World" had an advanced computer system called Noah, which controlled Ether technology. The civilization is destroyed when one of Noah's nodes went berserk and tried to wipe out humanity.
  • Sentinel: Descendants In Time has the Tastans, whos tombs have holographic AIs guarding them, and recreations of places the deceased was most attached to in life.
  • Trails Series: The Ancient Zemurian Civilization who lives more than 1200 years prior to the game's timeline acts as this. The civilization is divided into seven factions, each of them given a powerful treasure from the Goddess called Sept-Terrion. As a result, they possess more advanced technologies than recent Zemurians, though how they are "advanced" is different among one another due to the treasures possessing different powers. As example, Aureole/Shining Ring, Sept-Terrion governing the power of space, is capable of granting wishes while Demiourge/Hollow Phantasm, Sept-Terrion governing the power of mirage, is capable of manipulating knowledge and perception, thus allowing to manipulate cause and effect extending into foreseeing future events around the world.
  • Arknights has the unnamed Precursors race, which is implied to have come to Terra from another planet. They look like humans, with none of the Little Bit Beastly traits of modern-day people, and they've created (and left behind) super-computers, said Little Bit Beastly peoples, and a massive shield surrounding the entire planet. They are all but gone in the present day; only Friston (albeit as a robot) and the Doctor you play as are confirmed to still be around.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY, ancient humans were able to perform magic, which granted them safety from the Grimm and let them create wonders. However, they were all wiped out by the God of Darkness, and their second generation was made without that capacity, so modern humans have no magical prowess and live in fear of the Grimm, who routinely destroy their societies. Salem and Ozpin are two people from this time and retained their magic in addition to the immortality they were cursed with.

  • An arc of Nodwick featured a time traveler from centuries in the past who was disappointed to see that society had degenerated into medieval feudalism, and there was a crater where his home city used to be, and he caused it by bringing a temporally sensitive date-minder through a time portal.

    Western Animation 
  • The Olmecs in Onyx Equinox are this essentially. They built powerful obsidian technology including giant mechas and gates to the underworld.
  • It's not really elaborated on, but in one episode of Futurama, the characters find themselves on a planet with an ancient Egypt-like culture. They assume that these aliens visited Earth thousands of years ago and inspired Egyptian culture, but it turns out these aliens visited Earth thousands of years ago and were inspired by Egyptian culture.
  • Alluded to greatly in Adventure Time. Especially by the opening intro containing relics of a advanced 21st century civilization, though Word of God confirms it's really set After the End.
  • One Family Guy cutaway implies Ireland was this until the invention of beer.

    Real Life 
  • While there's no evidence of any civilizations with current day levels of technology, there were quite a few who were advanced compared to what followed, particularly since until a certain point, even the largest societies were at risk of being wiped out by a natural disaster. The Minoans of Santorini, considered a likely inspiration for the legend of Atlantis, are a prime example. They were quite advanced for 4000 years ago,note  but unfortunately this wonderfully fertile island was the crater of a supervolcano. Around 1600 BC, the city center was completely obliterated by one of the largest eruptions in human history, and the rest of the island was buried under the volcanic ash. Contrary to popular belief, this didn't destroy the Minoan civilization immediately - Santorini was a colony of the similarly advanced Cretan cities - but it did send them into decline, and they got conquered by the highly militaristic Mycenean Greeks (the ancestors of the later Classical Greeks, and also the inspiration for the mythical heroes) a century or two later.
  • Çatalhöyük was a mound-building city possibly containing ten thousand people, with advanced knowledge of pottery, crafted obsidian tools and used plaster inside their houses. Oh, and the city's heyday was around 7,000 BC.
  • The Antikythera Mechanism (named after the Greek shipwreck it was found in) was a geared device discovered underwater, dating to around the 1st century BCE. Designed for predicting the positions of various celestial bodies, the level of craftsmanship and complexity it exhibits is far greater than anything else recovered from that time period. It was, in fact, the first known analog computer. Though its origin is still a mystery, it is thought to be perhaps one of Archimedes' inventions, possibly used by Hipparchos, an early Greek astronomer.
  • The Indus Valley Civilization had modern sewer systems, incredibly advanced urban planning, standardized weights, and trade as far away as Oman as early as 2600 BC. The Indus Valley Civilization also shows signs of being very socially advanced: the lack of massive palaces and temples, the relative abundance of wealth in every home, and the scarcity of major weapons implies the Indus Valley Civilization was very egalitarian.
  • In the 1st century AD, among the inventions of Heron of Alexandria was the aeolipile, the first steam engine. While the aeolipile was a mere curiosity, Heron had also invented rudimentary versions of everything else needed for the steam engines that would bring about the industrial revolution in the 18th century. However he died without realizing this. It should be noted though that European metallurgy wasn't advanced enough to contain pressures large enough to do useful work. Even if it was, at that time machines were expensive and slaves were cheap so there would be little motivation for it.
  • This may be true today if one accounts for various uncontacted tribes—such as the North Sentinelese people—who still live in the Stone Age and are largely ignorant to the scientific advancements that have occurred. In this case, it comes close to overlapping with Ultraterrestrials due to the extremely high-tech global culture that has arisen around them. Some who have been contacted developed cargo cults as a result, while others (such as the aforementioned North Sentinelese) are violently aggressive toward outsiders. It's of course unknown precisely what they think about them, but helicopters are met with arrows whenever they draw near. As a result, the Indian government forbids outside travel to the islands, for the protection of both outsiders (the few who've defied the ban have been mostly killed) and the Sentinelese (because of disease).
  • The 11th century Song Dynasty China was seemingly on the verge of industrialization: it had the most advanced and productive iron and steel industry, paper money, coal mining, copper production, and a pretty advanced business and capitalism culture. There are numerous debates about why Song China didn't industrialize, ranging from an oppressive Confucian culture that stifled innovation to China's large population making machine-driven production superfluous, to China's lack of serious interstate competition.
  • In The New Russia and most other ex-USSR countries, people half-jokingly refer to the Soviet Union era as this, calling artifacts (especially architectural ones) left over from the Communist era "the remains of an ancient, more sophisticated civilization".


Video Example(s):


Before The Stone World

Senku shares with Chrome what Humanity had achieved over the course of Two-Million Years and how it was all lost 3700 years ago when Humanity was transformed into Stone Statues.

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Example of:

Main / AdvancedAncientHumans

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