another race, superior to ours
foresaw the catastrophe
fled to space and fled the tragedy
now they're here again, with a simple claim
Alien, Alien attack
They. Want. Their. Planet. Back."
The ultraterrestrials are an alien race that, well, isn't really alien. In fact, they originate from Earth, just like us humans, but their civilization is so much older and more advanced than ours that they have no trouble hiding from us (for whatever reason). The term was coined by the ufologist John Keel in his Operation Trojan Horse in 1970, wherein he claims that the UFOs, various supernatural phenomena (like the Mothman), and religious myths imply the activity of an almighty High Energy Being co-existing with humans on Earth.
Contrast Advanced Ancient Humans, when it's humanity itself that developed early, got advanced, then for whatever reason disappeared or fell back into primitiveness. Contrast Earth All Along, which includes a reversal of this trope: human spacefarers encounter a strange planet with strange lifeforms. It turns out that a lot of time has passed, and this strange planet is actually Earth.
The ultraterrestrials often reside inside the Hollow Earth. Still others hang out in Atlantis, or a place that's said to be the inspiration for it. Compare/contrast Transhuman Aliens and Transplanted Humans. Often a form of Precursor. Inverse of Humanity Came From Space.
- The Atlanteans in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.
- The Olmecs in The Mysterious Cities of Gold.
- The "Subterraneans" in Super Atragon.
- The Dinosaur Empire from Getter Robo are the highly evolved survivors of when Phlebotinum Killed the Dinosaurs.
- In the manga Outlanders, the invading aliens were originally from Earth. They were not happy to find squatters on the Sacred Mother Planet.
- In the nasty gorn-filled hentai OVA series Demon Beast Invasion, the eponymous villain was originally an advance scout for his race that was this trope (they'd left Earth 100 million years ago due to environmental changes making it unliveable for them); numerous retcons gradually transformed it into a transdimensional Eldritch Abomination though.
- The Nontolma from Sgt. Frog are pre-human inhabitants of Earth who live in the deepest oceans and prefer to be left alone to observe and record the goings-on of the surface world.
- The Atlanteans from The Vision of Escaflowne are either this or Advanced Ancient Humans or All Just a Dream. It's vague.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Supplementary material shows that the Angels (except for Adam and Lilith, which actually are extraterrestrial) are from Earth and have been asleep/dormant for the past several million years and Second Impact woke them up.
- The Pillar Men of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Their creation of vampires started out the plot, and eventually the Pillar Men themselves emerge from thousands of years in hibernation.
- DARLING in the FRANXX has the Klaxosaurs, who are ultimately nothing more than the biomechanical weapons of the "Klaxo sapiens", a highly advanced race that was almost completely wiped out in an Alien Invasion over sixty million years ago.
- Marvel Comics has The Eternals, the Deviants, and The Inhumans, each group an offshoot of pre-modern humans who were genetically modified by non terrestrial aliens long ago. Also the Sub-Mariner's Atlantis.
- Lost lands of this type were also a staple of the company's "giant monster" and science fiction stories in the 50's, although not all of those stories are still considered canon in the Marvel Universe.
- The DC Universe has Paradise Island/Themyscira, home of the Amazons; Gorilla City, home of gorillas genetically enhanced by aliens; and Aquaman's Atlantis. The Warlord's land of Skartaris used to count, being a Hollow World, but then got retconned as being a Land of the Lost-style Alternate Universe.
- Gold Digger LIVES on this trope. Digging up artifacts from such civilizations is the whole point of Gina's character. Of course, that 'verse being a Fantasy Kitchen Sink means that actual aliens, magical creatures from Another Dimension, and plenty else besides show up all the time.
- One major example is the planet Jade, a world in Another Dimension populated by dragons, werebeasts, and numerous other magical fantasy beings. The catch is that Jade is actually an artificial world constructed by a race of Precursors, and NONE of the creatures living there now are native to it. Almost all of them originally came from Earth, and migrated to Jade when the Age of Magic was coming to an end.
- Blake and Mortimer has Little Green Men that are actually the descendants of humanity after one nuclear world war too many. Where mankind has mastered the atom, they mastered time, and are trying to alter the past so the Earth doesn't turn into an irradiated wasteland (unfortunately, their plan for this involves bringing back Basam Damdu, the villain of the first book who managed to Take Over the World for a relatively long time).
- In Sinister Barrier by Eric Frank Russell, Earth is populated by Vitons, Energy Beings who exist outside visible spectrum and feed upon human emotions: from pain and anguish to joy. Oh, and when they die, they turn into ball lightnings. Though it's never made clear if Vitons originated on Earth in parallel with humans, if they created humans or if they came from another planet and enslaved humans — people who think of Vitons in their presence are killed to maintain The Masquerade, thus the researchers tend to die quickly (until the cataclysmic reveal halfway through the novel).
- In Bruce Coville's novel The Search For Snout, a boy believed his Disappeared Dad was an alien, but upon meeting him in space, finds out that he's a scientist from Atlantis who traveled into space before it fell, became immortal, and had adventures on alien worlds before returning to live on Earth (and then he disappeared because an alien he'd ticked off on his adventures found him and wanted to harm his family).
- The fairies from the Artemis Fowl series have got magic and have technology 50 years ahead of ours. And they live within the Hollow Earth, to boot.
- Humorous version from one of the spin-off Dilbert books, where Scott Adams postulates that all the smart people in the world have hyper-evolved to resemble grey aliens and are the real cause behind UFO sightings, but in fact have all just gone off to live in Switzerland.
- In the writings of Richard Sharpe Shaver—which he and many others believed to be fact—the Earth was once home to a super-advanced race of people living in ancient cave cities who abandoned this world to travel to another, leaving behind their descendants, the noble Teros and the degenerate Deros. The Deros would later inspire the evil dwarf-like Derros in Dungeons & Dragons.
- The dolphins in The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
- In Anne McCaffrey's Acorna Series, the character is a member of a humanoid race of unicorns, descended from more traditional equine unicorns and the Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who rescued them from being hunted to extinction on Earth in the middle ages.
- Ken MacLeod's Engines of Light trilogy is set in the Second Sphere, an area of space colonized by successive waves of intelligent Earth-evolved life forms, starting with hyperintelligent giant squid, and uplifted dinosaurs. Who fly around in saucers and happen to look a lot like grays.
- A staple of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Deep Ones, Ghouls, Serpentfolk, and Sand Dwellers are all roughly humanoid and presumably originated on Earth; the Cthonians could also possibly be of terrestrial origins, but their being full-fledged Eldritch Abominations makes this hard to determine. The Great Race is actually a subversion, as while their host bodies originated on Earth, the possessing intelligences that are the actual Great Race projected themselves through time and space from elsewhere and -when.
- An inversion terms of the Trope History occurs in Dougal Dixon's Man After Man: An Anthropology of the Future where the descendants of those Humans sent off to colonise distant starts while Earth's ecology recovers return after 5 million years, exploit and alter the planet more than Humanity did the first time, and then leave for some alien-rationalised reason.
- In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Floyd speculated one of these to be the ones who buried the Monolith in the moon. But then debunk this when he realized humanity would have found evidence of their existence already.
- Isaac Asimov:
- "Hostess": Old age is the result of a Mind Virus, carried by either a set of mindless pseudo-genes, or a parasitic mind (it had been republished with a few edits). The parasite is compared with the snake from the Garden of Eden.
- "Kid Stuff": Accourding to the elf, his race had evolved before even the dinosaurs. For thousands of years, they lived alongside humans as "fairies", but a few centuries ago, when they saw that, despite their telepathic powers, Muggles Do It Better, they had a bad case of inferiority complex and withdrew to Avalon.
- Mindwarp: The aliens that hound the heroic kids for the first six books are revealed to not be aliens, but a genetically-engineered super soldier/successor race from the future.
- In The Stress of Her Regard, the novel's "vampires" are actually a form of silicon-based life that had dominated the Earth in the very distant past, but had gone dormant when organic life became prevalent. They'd still be little more than inert rock, had a bizarre human experiment not managed to revive them.
- In Dean Koontz's short story Hardshell the titular character and his species are neither aliens nor genetic experiments gone wrong, but evolved alongside humanity.
- In Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, the Harmonians (including Mike, Mary, and Lady Sally) are humans from the far, far, far future, sent back in time to make sure theirs is the future that comes to pass. While they still appear physically human, their psychology is markedly different from growing up in a true Utopia.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Distant Origin", the starship encounters an ancient civilization of Earth dinosaurs. However, the theory that dinosaurs originate on Earth quickly gets branded as heresy, since it conflicts with the dogma that they have always been in their current region of space.
- Interestingly, their leader doesn't necessarily say that the Distant Origin theory is wrong. It just happens to contradict the Doctrine, on which their entire culture is based. She's perfectly willing to let the Voyager (i.e. the evidence that humans and Voth are related) go, as long as the scientist making the claim is willing to give up the theory and be relegated into obscurity. She's simply protecting her race's cultural identity.
- Except that Doctrine is also what gives her the right to rule (without any apparent checks on power or transparency), so she's also protecting her authority. Regardless of whether Strawman Has a Point, this is coming at the cost of stifling scientific progress and denying the Voth any right to debate a new discovery regarding their origin or potential genetic relationship with another spacefaring species.
- Doctor Who:
- The most prominent examples are the Silurians and Sea Devils (both of these names are technically Fantastic Slurs, the expanded universe uses "Earth Reptiles" and the 21st-century series the taxonomically dubious Homo reptilia as alternatives), who are terrestrial and aquatic races of an intelligent dinosaur species, from around 300 million BC, who put themselves into suspended animation in fear of a planetary disaster that failed to occur. They appear in the old-school serials "Doctor Who and the Silurians", "The Sea Devils" and "Warriors of the Deep", and several 21st-century episodes. Various encounters with humans on a large scale have led to tragic results, but in the 21st-century show Madame Vastra, a Silurian Lady of War living covertly in Victorian England with her human wife, has become a sympathetic recurring character.
- Also, the Cybermen were originally humans. As of developments in the new series, there are now two distinct groups of Cybermen: those developed into Cybermen on Earth's twin planet Mondas and those created in an Alternate Universe (wherein Britain is a republic, Rose Tyler's dad is still alive, Rose Tyler never existed, and Mickey is Ricky).
- Not so distinct anymore. Apparently, at some point, the Mondas Cybermen and the Cybus Cybermen meet and merge into the Cyberiad Cybermen, which have the same shape as the Cybus Cybermen but with a number of upgrades, and also joined into a single network. In fact, according to the Twelfth Doctor, it's actually quite common for Human Aliens to develop their own brand of Cybermen.
- There was also the Fendahl, whose skull crashed on Earth long before humans existed and psychically guided human evolution for thousands of years so that it could have a suitable host.
- The revived series does a purer form of this trope with the Silence, who have secretly ruled Earth "since the wheel and the fire", but always went unnoticed because you forget their existence as soon as they leave your field of vision. You don't just forget, but anything they say is treated as a post-hypnotic suggestion, including "You should kill us on sight" spliced with the footage of the Lunar landing, meaning humans kill the Silence without ever knowing it. It was finally revealed that the Silence actually fail to qualify for this, as they are time-travelling humans from the far future, who were biologically altered by a religious cult to serve as confessional priests.
- Gary Seven, from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Assignment: Earth", was from a race of humans raised on another planet, returned to Earth to guide human evolution.
- The aliens in The X-Files were actually ancient native Earth lifeforms that left for a few millennia and decided to come back. Much to their horror, they found that those pesky apes had built a civilization and replaced them — so they set out to re-colonize Earth, using the Government Conspiracy to aid them.
- The First People are a subversion. They're actually contemporary humans using a time machine.
- The Observers play this trope straight, except for the fact that they come from the very far future. As such, they are telepathic, can travel through space and time at will and "function at highly attenuated time".
- The antagonists in the Ultraseven episode "Envoy from Nonmalto".
- In the final episode of Space: Above and Beyond, the Chig ambassador claims that his species evolved on Earth before humans did, but left before the atmosphere became suited to oxygen-breathing life (the Chigs are methane-breathers). Well, specifically, the Chigs evolved from humble anaerobic bacteria that evolved on ancient Earth, who then got spread to space by an asteroid impact, then meteorites created from the impact eventually spread to another solar system, where they continued to evolve. Consider that there was a gap of billions of years between when anaerobic bacteria evolved and when complex multicellular life evolved. Technically their DNA line is billions of years older than ours, but much of this was spent as just frozen bacteria spores on meteorites for billions of years after that, so in the present day they're roughly at the same evolutionary level as we are.
- The Kromaggs in Sliders are thought to be aliens at first but it turns out they are a parallel evolution of hominids from another Earth. Two Earths are known to have produced Kromaggs: Earth Prime (the militant kind, who were driven out by that world's humans) and Earth Double Prime (a mirror of Earth Prime, where the Kromaggs are docile and are in the process of being exterminated by that world's racist humans).
- The Outer Limits (1995): In "Double Helix", a seemingly alien race seeded Earth with their DNA about 60 million years ago, which eventually resulted in the evolution of humanity. The sequel "The Origin of Species" reveals that the race in question was the first intelligent species to evolve on Earth and that they eventually left the planet and returned aeons later.
- In the song "Alien Attack" (see Page Quote), the synth band S.P.O.C.K. tells a story of hypertech dinosaurs coming back to reclaim their home planet from the humans.
- The Subterrans and Tritons in Monsterpocalypse.
- The Saurians in Conspiracy X.
- The andean Pucara red giants in Rifts, unlike pretty much every other non-human, non-mutant sentient species in the setting (which usually originate from Another Dimension), turn out to be this (of course, they're from South America, which is weird even by Rifts Earth standards).
- There's also the True Atlanteans, who are Advanced Ancient Humans / Precursors who'd left Earth millenia ago (called "True" because Atlantis is currently home to myriad Aliens and Monsters and ruled by a Proud Merchant Race Eldritch Abomination), and Psi-X Aliens, who look like The Greys (and considered just another extra-dimensional race) but are actually mutants genetically engineered as a failed experiment to unlock the secret of Psychic Powers by Dr. Desmond Bradford.
- The Lunarians in Touhou Project.
- The D'ni of Myst fame, though they originated on another world. Their city can be visited in Myst V and Uru
- Iji: the Komato, and, by extension, the Tasen originated from Earth, which they called Origin. They don't realize this until after they Alpha Strike its surface into a charred wasteland. Which we learn a ways into the game, and changes how some of them think.
- The Gillmen of XCOM Terror From The Deep, possibly inspired by the Silurians and Sea-Devils of Doctor Who.
- Crysis' Ceph, although they don't quite fit the trope perfectly. Yes, the Ceph are genuine extraterrestrials who originated from another galaxy, but they established colonies on Earth at least 65 million years ago which then went into hibernation. So no, they're not exactly Ultra Terrestrials, but they've been on this planet for so long they might as well be.
- The backstory of Girls' Frontline features the "Derelict" civilization. Very little is known about them, or even if Earth is their planet of origin, but their abandoned facilities that are scattered around the globe have yielded only one mummified corpse, that is at least compatible enough with Earth biology that their genome could be mapped and hybridized with human clones by a secret project (this appeared to yield no appreciable changes in the hybrids). Most believe they either went extinct or simply abandoned Earth.
- The Vahnatai in the Avernum/Exile series even look like Roswell aliens, but live extremely deep underground.
- The Beastmen from UFO Afterlight are actually Ultra-Martians back with a vengeance against the Martians who had imprisoned them in another dimension.
- Assassin's Creed: The Precursor race known as the Isu, The Ones Who Came Before, or "First Civilization". They more or less looked like humans, but had triple-helix DNA and a sixth sense. They didn't just evolve before humans - they took primate races and artificially uplifted them using genetic engineering to serve their needs as a slave race. Basically, imagine if modern humans took chimpanzees and genetically uplifted them into near-humans. Subsequent conspiracies then filled in the fossil record gap this created with fabrications (i.e. we really jumped straight from Homo erectus to anatomically modern humans, then they filled in the missing links). They then dominated humans with their superior technology and physical capabilities. A slave revolt greatly depopulated them, after which a catastrophic natural disaster finished off those who were left (ironically preventing them from saving the planet, including the nascent human civilization on it). Humanity survived but got dialed back to hunter-gatherers and forgot their origins. The legacy of the First Civilization lives on, however, in the form of their DNA mingled with some human bloodlines, plus a number of artifacts scattered throughout the planet, some small enough to fit in the palm of a hand, and some as large structures.
- Tales of Maj'Eyal has the Sher'Tul, who were a mysterious Precursor race with advanced technology and magic that are, to this day, very poorly understood by the current races that reside on Eyal. They initiated a crusade against the Gods and drove the Gods to virtual extiction. They then disappeared for unknown reasons, but there are references In-Universe that "the Sher'Tul are not gone, just hiding".
- Implied with "The First People" in the Super Robot Wars Alpha saga (though it's also suggested The First are Advanced Ancient Humans): their origins are Earth-based, having created a pair of planetary defense systems called the "Gan Eden" to protect the Earth from The End of the World as We Know It, such as a meteor shower and the "STMC". While The First left with the Gan Eden pair to seed life on another planet in the galaxy, a fraction of them stayed on Earth to mingle with humanity; modern humans in the present of Alpha are The First's descendants, specifically those who are classified as "Psychodrivers", as they carry their ancestors' unique Psychic Powers.
- The dragons in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, although they left Earth for another planet in the Middle Ages.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth also propelled a number of them into space. "Crazy space radiation" caused them to gain human-level intelligence. Eventually, they mastered interstellar travel and (in some of the timelines) returned to Earth.
- The ahuman and solipsist transapient AIs from Orion's Arm are ultraterrestrials to an extent - they were originally created by humans, but after losing their cyberwar against the pro-human transapients, they were exiled from Earth. When the (trans)humans and pro-human AIs finally reached the systems the ahumans had passed through, they found apparently alien artifacts - which turned out to be just stuff that the ahumans had built.
- Several examples from the SCP Foundation:
- Played with in the form of SCP-1000. They were the dominant species on Earth before humanity. Then humanity destroyed their civilization and wiped its own memory of those events through an unspecified means. Now the SCP-1000 want to be "let back in."
- As it turns out, turnabout is fair play. SCP-2932 claims that the "Children of the Night" had previously overthrown a race known as the Fae.
- Unrelated to any of the above, SCP-2735 was the dominant lifeform on Earth billions of years ago, until oxygen-breathing life came along.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, shortly after Earth has fought off an invasion by the Xorn, the earth is visited by another alien race, the Kankiscree, who have been space-faring for some 70 million years and possess god-like technology. Turns out the Kankiscree originated on earth from one of the dinosaur species. They left due to the dramatic climate change caused by the "dinosaur-killer" asteroid impact and never bothered to come back. They then declared that their mammalian "cousins", the humans, were under their protection.
- South Park
- The Crab People from "South Park is Gay!"
- Jakovasaurs are from Earth, but they're really, really stupid.
- Stingray (1964): The various aquatic races.
- The monsters from Inhumanoids as well as the Mutores.
- Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman mentions that there was a "Lost Race" that existed before humans, gargoyles or Oberon's Children and died out sometime after they came into being.
- The Y'Lyntians from the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.
- The Lovecraftian civilization of Cobra-La from G.I. Joe.