Note: AC (Articles of Colonization) refers to the period after the Articles of Colonization were established, BU (Before Unification) refers to the period before)
Life began out there. That is what the Sacred Scrolls tells about the origins of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol. There is little left that survived the time of the initial Colonization, and our records are sketchy at best. Our knowledge of the time BEFORE Colonization is even murkier; it has all devolved to myth and legend. Nevertheless, academics throughout time have managed to piece together a likely story of the origins of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol.
It has been largely accepted by the fraternity of historians that the Book of the Word’s recollection of our origins is largely true, although there are some disputes amongst scholars as to the exact translation of key phrases from the original Kobol to the common Colonial tongue in use today. Humans are not indigenous to any of the worlds that became the Twelve Colonies. All of us are immigrants from an ancestral home that the Book calls Kobol. This home is located amongst the stars, its exact location shrouded in the mists of time. What caused our ancestors to leave Kobol is also not known; we can only surmise that some great calamity struck our ancestors over time and forced them to flee. The implication of the Book is that our ancestors fled en masse from Kobol and that the Twelve Colonies were founded simultaneously; without offending our holy brethren from Scorpia, this is quite simply untrue according to the scientific data. Carbon dating of the oldest structures on all Twelve Colonies suggests that the Colonization occurred over an extended period of time.
On an interesting aside, the Cyrannus star system, which eventually played host to the new (or transplanted) civilization, appears to be unique amongst all explored solar systems. Where the nearby systems in our part of the galactic neighborhood have shown, without fail, a paucity of habitable planets, our system appears to have had an abundance of planets capable of supporting human life; in fact, exactly twelve colonizable planets. They are not all equally suited to human habitation, but are nevertheless, livable. By and large, our species has adapted well to our new environments, and adapted well our new environments to us.
Thus, the current theory is that at some point in our history, twelve (possibly thirteen) successive waves or tribes of colonists/refugees departed the original home of Kobol and founded the Twelve Colonies as we know them today. Our best guess is that the world of Caprica, and indeed, the settlement that eventually became Caprica City, was the first to be founded, according to the most reliable archaeological and anthropological data uncovered to date. The Colonies were then founded in succession; Scorpia, Libris and Leonis; Picon, Aerelon, Aquarion, Canceron, Sagittaron, Geminon, Tauron, and finally Virgon (in that order). We do not know how long the Colonization took exactly, but our best estimate is that the process was completed within five hundred years of the first human footsteps being taken on the surface of Caprica.
Legend and the Book also speak of the existence of the Twelve Lords of Kobol. The Twelve were described as great leaders with supernatural powers who brought our ancestors to the twelve worlds, each one founding a colony (literal translation “made to live”) and endowing our ancestors with knowledge to prosper in their new home. Then, according to the most accurate translations of the Book, the Twelve “ascended” in turn. What “ascended” means exactly is open to speculation. Even taken in a literal sense, where they ascended to we do not know; the Book of the Word is typically cryptic by saying no more. There is some evidence that the Twelve did in fact exist and were not simply legendary characters. Some of their names have been discovered in the records recovered from the time of Colonization, but the material was so degraded that we could not determine what context their names were used in. Beyond these dubious mentions in the prehistoric literature, we know little about them other than their descriptions in the Book. There is no supporting evidence for their supernatural powers, a fact that many atheists hold dearly to their hearts; denial is a strong tenet of the atheistic religion.
The skeptical also scoff at the Legend of the Thirteenth Colony. The legends and the Book all speak of the existence of a Thirteenth Colony named Earth that left Kobol prior to the events that forced the rest of our ancestors off that doomed planet. The legends are conflicted in their recounting of the reasons as to why this group left Kobol before the others, if indeed they ever existed. Some suggest that they were forced off Kobol, others suggest that they left to prepare the way for the remainder of humanity, and yet others still say that they knew of the coming calamity (whatever that may have been) and left to ensure the survival of the species. Despite the legends, we have no records confirming the existence of the Thirteenth Colony, nor have our deep space probes ever detected any intelligent activity beyond our system.
The legends also speak of a Thirteenth Lord who was cast out from the brotherhood of the Twelve, and forced to lead the Thirteenth Colony to their new home. Unlike the legends regarding the Thirteenth Colony, these legends are unequivocal regarding the Thirteenth Lord’s departure – He did not leave of His own will. Unlike the Twelve, no records have ever been recovered to substantiate the existence of the Thirteenth Lord, nor is He ever mentioned in the Book of the Word. Academia has never accepted His existence, and the Hierarchy in Scorpia declared that belief in the Thirteenth Lord was heretical soon after the foundation of the High Temple in the early Second Century BU. Nevertheless, the legends persist amongst the lay people.
Regardless of the exact role and nature of the Twelve (or Thirteen), the Colonies of Kobol grew and prospered in near splendid isolation for the next three centuries after the completion of the Colonization. Reliable records begin in this three hundred year consolidation period. The Twelve are purported to have left behind knowledge regarding space flight, but it is quite clear to the rational that the early Colonists maintained a basic knowledge of space flight taken from Kobol. Space flight has been traditionally described as STL (slower than light) and FTL (faster than light) travel, the two types of flight entirely distinguished from each other by speed. Both types were known to the early Colonists but STL drive systems were at the time totally impractical for the maintenance of inter-Colonial space travel; the best STL speeds were barely 0.1c (c = speed of light). It literally took months or even years for a spacecraft launched from a Colony to rendezvous with its destination.
On the other hand, the rudiments of FTL drive were also known, providing the means for the Colonies to remain in touch, and, therefore, preventing the fractioning of our civilization into twelve distinct peoples. Despite this, space flight was not common for the average citizen for a number of reasons. FTL drives were prohibitively expensive to construct in terms of material and the expertise required, meaning that most of the Colonial worlds only ever fielded an FTL fleet numbering no more than ten ships at a time. These ships were mostly Government and ambassadorial couriers; trade and cultural exchange missions were regular but much less common.
The ancillary technologies, including jump computers, tracking devices, and knowledge of the surrounding space (which depended at that time on poorly resolved radio and light telescope data) were poorly developed, requiring that jumps be made in small bite-sized chunks, markedly adding to operational overhead of each FTL ship. Added to this was the cost of fuel itself; power generation was largely based on the now outmoded fission/fusion model, a woefully inefficient source of power. Indeed, in those days, more than half of an FTL ship’s mass was devoted solely to the multiple cores required to power the FTL drive. Perhaps the most prohibitive factor in the development of FTL technology was quite simply, a lack of need. There were plenty of space and resources on the newly founded Colonies; there was little need to look to off-world sources for either. What came next, however, changed everything.