Top 10 Most Important Ancient Documents Lost to History

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6. Zoroastrian Avesta

The holy book of ancient Persia’s quasi-monotheistic creed survives as a sprawling collection of fragments—an estimated one-quarter of the original text. The last complete manuscripts may have burned when Alexander the Great conquered Persepolis in 330 B.C.

7. Confucius’ Sixth Classic


We still have the “Five Classics” traditionally ascribed to the Chinese philosopher, covering poetry, rhetoric, ancient rites, history and divination. The sixth, on music, may have disappeared in the 3rd-century-B.C. “Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars.”

8. Yongle Encyclopedia

More than 2,000 scholars contributed to this 11,000-volume Ming dynasty text on subjects ranging from agriculture to art, theology and natural sciences. Half of 800 remaining volumes burned in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900; 3 percent of the original text survives.

9. Ibn Al-Haytham’s Treatises

The Iraq-born medieval mathematician, astronomer and physicist, whose work on optics (in a Latin translation of the Arabic) and the scientific method influenced thinkers in Europe, wrote more than 200 works. Only 55 survive in any language.

10. Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel

The Hebrew Bible refers to some 20 works that no longer exist. The frequently cited “Chronicles” was a detailed early Iron Age history from which numerous other biblical narratives may have been drawn.

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