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The Protheans are an ancient alien race which mysteriously vanished over 50,000 years ago.

The
Protheans arose from a single planet and developed an immense galaxy-wide empire
encompassing many other spacefaring species. Not much is known about them, but many of their
artifacts, ruins and technology have apparently survived the ages.
The Protheans have been credited with creating the Citadel and the mass relays, feats of
engineering that have never been equaled and whose core mass effect field technology forms the
basis of contemporary civilization. Prothean artifacts, therefore, have immense scientific value
and are seen as belonging to the entire galactic community.

Protheans are an anthropoidal race. They have two pairs of eyes with each eye possessing dual
pupils, and three pairs of nostrils. Much like turians, Protheans have a similar flanging effect in
their voices. Their eyes have some ability to see through cloaked objects or entities. Their heads
are covered in a thick, layered carapace that gives them a distinctive shape. The skin surrounding
this carapace can be a pale blue-gray or brown color mottled with muted yellow spots. Their
hands each have three fingers, and their feet each have two widely-spaced toes. Prothean blood is
red.
A unique attribute of Prothean physiology is an experiential exchange system based on physical
touch. By touching something or someone, a Prothean could recall its experiences. This system
can transfer complex ideas, with a Prothean being capable of learning a new skill or foreign
language with a single touch. This sensory mechanism arose because the Protheans evolved as
hunters and needed to be thoroughly aware of their environment. This is similar to the idea of
psychometry.
From the few specimens of Prothean genetic material that have been found, modern scientists
have learned that Protheans have a unique "quad-strand" DNA structure. It has also been
hypothesized that Protheans were resistant to low levels of radiation because of the discovery that
Prothean comm towers produced small but significant amounts of ionizing radiation, enough to
damage the DNA of Earth creatures such as fruit flies and bees.

Very little is known about the origins of the Prothean race; even the name and location of their
homeworld has been lost to history. It is unknown precisely when Prothean civilization arose and
how long it persisted, but one of their communication devices discovered on the planet Fehl
Prime has been dated to as early as 68,000 BCE.
After achieving spaceflight, the Protheans discovered the ruins of a previous spacefaring race, the
inusannon, and from those ruins learned about mass effect physics and developed FTL
technology. The Protheans would expand throughout the galaxy with the help of the mass relay
network and make the Citadel their capital.

Early in their development, the Protheans encountered a hostile machine intelligence which
threatened to overwhelm them. To defeat the machines, the Protheans decided to unite all of the
galaxy's sentient organic life under their empire. The other organic races were free to resist, but
those that tried were crushed, and none ever managed to best the Protheans' might. In time, each
of the subjugated races assimilated into Prothean culture and came to think of themselves as
Prothean. United under a single cause, the Prothean Empire successfully held off the enemy
machines in a conflict known as the "Metacon War".
The Protheans extensively observed primitive species such as the asari, hanar, humans, quarians,
salarians, and turians during their time. They cultivated species they deemed to have potential.
Numerous outposts were placed on or near the primitives' homeworlds, with Prothean
interference and activities kept beyond their subjects' comprehension. In time, the Protheans
would have given these primitives the "choice" to be part of their empire.

The Protheans' belief that they could hold their own against machine intelligence was shattered
with the arrival of the Reapers in approximately 48,000 BCE, who were far more advanced than
the machines the Protheans had been battling. They were caught completely off-guard by the
scale and rapidity of the assault. The Reapers entered the galaxy through the Citadel, instantly
decapitating the Protheans' government and disrupting the mass relay network, isolating Prothean
systems from one another. Worse, records on the Citadel provided the Reapers with access to all
of the Protheans' census data and star charts, allowing them to effectively track every Prothean in
the galaxy.
The Protheans' greatest strength, their unified empire, proved to be their downfall. As the
Protheans were united under the leadership of a single governing species with a series of
subordinate races, the Reapers were able to quickly undermine the Prothean hierarchy and cause
Prothean forces to become scattered when their ruling body had been compromised. In addition,
as all the races within the Empire conformed to a single military doctrine, they proved unable to
adapt when the Reapers identified and exploited their weaknesses.