Suppose you are a modern person thrown to some place on Earth in ancient times - there are many variants here in terms of time (prehistorical, medieval, etc.) and location (Europe, Asia, etc.)

Is there a strategy of action (probably specific to the time/place where you arrived) that would improve your chances of survival in local conditions? What skills of a modern person (doctor, scientist, engineer, athlete, soldier etc.) could improve your chances of survival and, perhaps, rising to prosperity in the local society?

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    $\begingroup$ Do ypu go back as someone that is already known to the people there, with that person's prior memories, our are you unique to that time and place with only your own knowledge? Do you look like them, or like yourself? These additional details in your question will drastically alter your answers and hopefully give you the one you are looking for. $\endgroup$
    – N2ition
    Apr 14, 2017 at 1:59
  • $\begingroup$ @N2ition Thanks for these considerations. Yes, if you are somebody who can pass for a local then probably you can use your knowledge. If not, and you appear as a stranger, it seems to me that you will be likely killed on the spot or enslaved anywhere on Earth, if we go back more than 300-400 years ago, and no modern knowledge would save you. $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2017 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ You are right. Only a person who is specifically equipped, trained, highly knowledgeable about the time, and well organized could rise to prosperity in any past society. This means even decades ago, let alone centuries. Otherwise, as you say, they will die. Essentially you are planning a major expedition into an alien culture while planning to prosper there. This is more than one modern person can do. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Apr 14, 2017 at 4:53
  • $\begingroup$ Biggest hurdle, language. $\endgroup$
    – Mormacil
    Apr 14, 2017 at 8:06

2 Answers 2


I've answered many other time travel questions with the simple suggestion that each of us should be competent in at least one primitive musical instrument, just in case we happen to fall into the distant past. The abilities to carve a recorder and string a drum when combined with the ability to produce music with such simple tools could buy the unprepared time traveler safe passage into whatever community they happen to arrive near.

Although musical skill and a diverse repertoire probably won't earn you the kind of prosperity being sought by this question, they can keep your belly full and earn you a safe place to sleep while you figure out how to use all the rest of your future knowledge and skills.

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    $\begingroup$ Also an ability to draw could work similarly in your favor. If one could draw good portraits with a piece of chalk, that could convince locals that this person is worth keeping around for entertainment. You would not need to build a musical instrument which may be nontrivial without tools and materials. Also, more importantly, drawing looks somewhat magical but it is something that one can learn; maybe not like Rembrandt but at the level of modern street artists, enough to impress people. For music the role of natural talent is larger, and you don't want to risk being executed for your music. $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2017 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @MaximUmansky, Great Points! Drawing will definitely be added to my training regime for those who would be prepared for chronological transition. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2017 at 17:36

Yes, hide out as much as you can while you survey your surroundings and make your plans. This is pretty critical. Once you know where and roughly when you are, you can come up with a strategy to be successful. Some places and times you're just going to be out of luck, especially if you don't look at least a bit like the locals or there is a war going on. In which case arm yourself and do your best as an outlaw.

Other places you will be welcomed, those which value labour because of low population due to plague, war etc, for instance.

You can always be mute, in ancient times as in the third World today mutes, cripples and other disabilities are common enough, both from birth and because of accidents or wars. So muteness would be your first strategy. Second try not to look like you'd be worth robbing, look like whatever passes for a lowly peasant where ever you are, at least to start with.

If you have good general knowledge you can be useful in many ways, you know maths that most people don't, you understand science which they're unaware of. You just need to attach yourself to a person or institution where these are skills that will get you ahead (and stay alive on the way)

  • $\begingroup$ It's a good point - some places/times can be just bad luck, and you don't need to go far back for that. But were there any places/times in ancient world where one would be in luck? Say, a thousand years ago, would a Christian or Buddhist monastery provide food and shelter to a stranger, enough to survive for some initial time? $\endgroup$ Apr 14, 2017 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Some men lived their entire adult lives at monasteries, no idea how welcoming they were, but once there I think you would be ok. You'd have to move through potentially hostile countryside to get there though. Any of the plague periods would be easy, populations were low and people were on the move and in demand as workers.. $\endgroup$
    – Kilisi
    Apr 14, 2017 at 23:03

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