Stories often confuse two or more time periods. For example, Renaissance dress may appear with 12th-century crusaders in a story set in Charlemagne's empire. Imperial Roman troops might have guns. Cavemen might be fighting Dinosaurs to survive. This is not only a modern trope. Medieval artists, for example, routinely dressed Biblical figures in contemporary fashions, and the Greek myth of Theseus features similar confusion. Some critics think the very first writer to actually try to reconstruct past times as different from the current era was Sir Walter Scott.
This can also be done deliberately. A work might combine large numbers of anachronisms to create a timeless or surreal setting, where the exact era of the story (or the era the fictional world is supposed to be imitating) is both ambiguous and irrelevant, allowing the work's creators to freely introduce further anachronisms whenever doing so would make for a good plot or a good joke.
This has a number of more-particular variations:
- Alternate History: Speculative fiction where the entire central idea is an anachronistic departure from our main timeline.
- Ambiguous Time Period: The work is set in no particular time period, so everything clashes intentionally.
- Anachronistic Orphanage: A traditional orphanage in a first-world setting.
- Anachronistic Soundtrack: Modern day music in a Period Piece.
- Artistic License Paleontology: The biological version of this trope.
- Cosmetically Advanced Prequel: A chronolocially earlier installment features more advanced technology because it was made later.
- Font Anachronism: When creators use fonts in their works that weren't even invented yet.
- Future Imperfect: When fictional historians from the future can't get their history straight.
- The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: Anachronistic cultural references from a supernatural character.
- Low Culture, High Tech: Low tech culture using far advanced technologies it doesn't understand.
- Purely Aesthetic Era: When the blatant anachronisms are the joke. (There are other contexts Purely Aesthetic Era shows up in, but the most common is comedies using Schizo Tech (or other blatant anachronisms) for a laugh.)
- Present-Day Past: Works set in the recent past that reference contemporary pop culture.
- Politically Correct History: Portraying society in the past as more tolerant than they actually were.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: The producers get the period right, but are criticized because it's not what the audience was expecting.
- Schizo Tech: The mix of technologies purposefully makes very little sense.
- Steam Never Dies: The predominant use of steam power in a setting where it would otherwise be considered obsolete.
- Weird Historical War: When real historical wars' depiction in stories use advanced technology that comes much later than they should.
Compare Artistic License History, where the historical inaccuracy is the result of fictionalization, not a combination of actual historical details from different eras.
Please note that this is not a place to pothole any anachronism you find in a work. Those examples belong on the Trivia subpage of that work. This Trope is about the setting/environment of the work, and as such, requires multiple anachronisms affecting how the viewer of the work sees the setting.
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- Films With No Good Excuse
- Live-Action TV
- Tabletop Games
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- Western Animation
- Real Life
- The "Marine" scene from The Apotheosis of Washington has the Roman goddess Venus emerging from the ocean as she did in the time of ancient Greece so she can complete her godly duties... to wire transatlantic telegram cables. Behind her and Neptune's mighty horsemen, you can see a smoke-stacked industrial factory.
- The School of Athens depicts an adult Aristotle in the same building as Socrates, who was executed when Aristotle was 15. Then there's The Cameo from Raphael himself and the Muslim philosopher Averroes, none of which had access to enough Time Travel to make it to the school on time.
- Much religious art from The Renaissance on. This had a solid Real World justification, though. Religious paintings, especially on the walls of churches were designed for the masses, and the goal was not to depict a scene exactly as it was, but to tell the story for everyone to understand. Through the use of contemporary clothing, armor, and styles, even the common people could instantly recognize "that's a soldier, that's a fisherman, that's a shepherd, that's a tax collector, that's a nobleman, that's a commoner" etc. instead of "WTF are those people in those silly clothes?"
- This got completely out of hand by the 18th and 19th centuries, when both Pontius Pilate and Herod were depicted in extravagant Persian-type robes.
- Historians can and do judge when forks reached different parts of Europe by looking for them in paintings of the Last Supper. Judging military equipment is a little trickier, as you can never quite predict when someone's depicting the cutting edge and when he's depicting a suitably "old-fashioned" type of armor, but that tends to be well-attested elsewhere.
- This astronaut on a cathedral built in 1102 is another example.
- An entire style of painting, the classical landscape, was dedicated to this. It incorporated classical, medieval, and contemporary architecture while showing biblical or historical characters.
- The Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama Invaders from Mars actually has some deliberate anachronisms, such as a character saying there was 49 states in 1938, when there was only 48, and someone repeatedly referencing the CIA when it wouldn't be founded until nine years later. This was due to the influence of "anti-time." Other mistakes, however, were less deliberate, like Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds broadcast being on October 31 instead of October 30.
- Medieval Madness plays the absurdity of medieval pinball for laughs throughout the game.
Rioting Peasant: "They've taken our pinball machines!"
- Inadvertently invoked by Eight Ball Champ, which mixes an Edwardian Era theme with computerized sound effects and a Machine Monotone voice.