18 Things That Used to Be Amazing But Have Been Lost to Time

As societies and their technologies progress, some knowledge and traditions are lost to time. Many ancient and more modern technologies and skills have been lost because they were not correctly documented, stored, or conserved. Here are 18 things that are at risk of being lost to time or have been forgotten by modern society.

Silent Films

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Silent films have a unique visual artistry and storytelling method necessitated by the lack of audible dialogue, but many have been lost to time. Film decay, archival neglect, and clearing out for storage space destroyed many of these films. Collider notes, “75% of silent-era films are lost forever, alongside half of all American sound films made before 1950.”

Ancient Languages and Scripts

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Ancient languages like Bo, Etruscan, and Norn were once widely spoken in different regions of the world but have since become extinct. Scripts of some of these ancient languages, including Linear A, the Harappan script, and the Cretan hieroglyphs, remain undeciphered. Grunge notes that when these languages become extinct, “unique cultures, whole bodies of ancient knowledge, and intangible links to heritage stand to disappear along with the words.”

Historic Architectural Wonders

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Architectural marvels of ancient civilizations, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, have been lost to human actions and natural disasters. Only one of the ancient seven wonders still exists, the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Extinct Animal Species

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Human activity has led to the extinction of countless animal species, notably the dodo, the passenger pigeon, and the Tasmanian tiger. Overhunting, intentionally or inadvertently introducing a non-native species to a new area, and habitat degradation have led to the loss of thousands of species. The American Museum of Natural History notes that the “dodo is a lesson in extinction,” dying out less than 80 years after being found by Dutch soldiers.

Traditional Crafts and Artisan Skills

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Due to industrialization and mass production, traditional crafts and artisan skills like handloom weaving, traditional blacksmithing, and glassblowing are increasingly uncommon. These skills often carry centuries of tradition and heritage that risk being lost to time. However, efforts are underway worldwide to revive and preserve these traditional skills through apprenticeships, workshops, and community programs.

Lost Recipes and Culinary Arts

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Historical dishes and ingredients shine an important light on ancient civilizations’ social and economic culture. Several projects aim to document and recreate these forgotten recipes. The Food Timeline documents the introduction of different foods dating back millennia, while Lost Recipes Found recreates more modern dishes that have fallen into obscurity.

Forgotten Social Customs and Etiquette

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Social customs evolve as society changes. But this can lead to old customs and etiquette being forgotten, their once important role in daily life and social cohesion being lost to time. Cultural retention aims to prevent and reverse this process, and groups worldwide are protecting their centuries-old traditions.

Ancient Medical Knowledge

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Ancient civilizations in Egypt, Greece, and China had their own medical practices, surgeries, herbal remedies, and holistic approaches that are no longer practiced. Historians are researching and trying to uncover some of this forgotten knowledge. Smithsonian Magazine points out that “Alain Touwaide, a science historian in the botany department at the National Museum of Natural History, has devoted his career to unearthing lost knowledge.”

Vanished Civilizations

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Ancient civilizations like the Indus, the Maya, and the Anasazi declined and disappeared centuries ago, leaving unanswered questions about their society and culture. Architectural remains like the Mayan cities give clues about the lives of these people. Efforts are ongoing to uncover the reason for the decline and disappearance of these countries.

Obsolete Technologies

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Technologies like typewriters, rotary phones, and film cameras have been made redundant by the widespread use of mobile phones, computers, and the Internet. These obsolete technologies are now collectors’ items with dedicated interest in certain circles.

Classic Video Games

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Original, hard-copy versions of many classic video games are increasingly hard to come across due to high prices and a lack of archives storing them. Gamers often turn to illegal piracy to play these games on modern computers, but the original experience of playing these games is increasingly rare. The Video Game History Foundation laments the disappearance of classic video games, noting that “87% of classic video games released in the United States are critically endangered.”

Disappeared Trade Routes

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Ancient trade routes like the Silk Road and the Amber Road were once central to cultural and economic exchanges between civilizations. These routes declined as global maritime trade rose and the need to travel by land decreased, and today, they are studied by historians.

Lost Music and Compositions

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The tapes that music was recorded on for a large part of the 20th century are susceptible to rot, and many tapes that contained the only copy of a session have been lost, sold for scrap, or burned. Vox notes that many of folk and blues singer Lead Belly’s “original recordings no longer exist” because conservators didn’t get to them in time.

Forgotten Historical Figures

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Some historical figures who were hugely influential and contributed to the development of modern technology have been forgotten by the general public. Clarence Dally, Ernest Lawrence, and Elijah McCoy massively impacted their respective fields with their discoveries and inventions, but they are now generally unknown to the public.

Vanished Natural Landscapes

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Human activity, such as deforestation, urbanization, and climate change caused by fossil fuel emissions, has dramatically altered and even destroyed some natural landscapes. The Amazon Rainforest, the Everglades, and the Great Barrier Reef are ecologically sensitive areas at risk of disappearing.

The Library of Alexandria

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Brittanica describes the Library of Alexandria as “the most famous library of Classical antiquity.” It was the most significant library of its time, with up to 400,000 books from Egypt, Greece, Rome, and beyond. Time notes that “while the fact that the library failed to exist beyond the classical period is unquestioned, exactly why is less clear.” There is a theory that it was destroyed by a fire set by Julius Caesar in 48 BC, while others believe multiple incidents over centuries gradually degraded the library.

Ancient Inventions and Discoveries

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Ancient civilizations discovered innovations that were ahead of their time. Ancient Roman concrete, for example, can last millennia, while modern concrete can break down after just 50 years. These innovations could have radically altered modern-day life if they had been continually developed and expanded upon.

Esoteric and Mystical Knowledge

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The secretive religious beliefs of the Greco-Roman mysteries were slowly incorporated into modern Christianity by various leaders over the first few centuries after Jesus’s death. Historians study these ancient beliefs for their influence on contemporary society, but they have been inactive for centuries.

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