Fragan Sphere, The

Vanished Terragen Empire

Fragan Empire
Image from Steve Bowers
Typographer ruins on GSDS 43983-33932 III

Pre-Empires age autonomous Terragen interstellar civilization; many details about it and the reasons for its disappearance remain a mystery. Few empires pose more curious archaeological questions than the Fragan Empire and none give fewer answers. The Fragan Empire has been compared to the Tunnlers in its frustrating combination of totally accessible ruins and near total lack of certain information.

The Fragan Sphere was discovered in 3013 by Solarian explorers in the third Yu Expansion Initiative (the word Fragan is old Scansolarian for Riddler, "One who poses riddles"). They found the remnants of space habitats and planetary settlements, showing definite human style but not belonging to any known culture. As the region was more carefully explored the surprised Solarians realized they had stumbled on a vanished empire. The Fragan region was approximately 50 light-years in diameter, a sphere centred on the GSDS 43983-33932 system (dubbed Fragan Prime by the explorers).

The Fragans were of human origin, although genotyping has not been able to establish their exact phylogeny due to widespread technological modifications. Age estimates suggest that the newest ruins date from 2900-2950, while the oldest ruins date from 2150. This suggests that the Fragans must be derived from very early long-range colonization efforts, such as Integrated Nanosystems or Kolonykorp during the First Federation Era. However, the controversial ruins in Makraje Drift imply that the region was settled 400 year earlier, implying a point of divergence during, or even before, the Dark Ages. The dating has been deeply questioned, but no consensus has been reached. A possible explanation would be that at some point post-dark age colonists exploited an unknown Tunh wormhole for "FTL" transport, an assumption that has led to a widespread and unsuccessful search for the "Fragan alien stargate".

The disappearance of the Fragan Empire is a major mystery in itself. It appears to have stopped expanding around 2400. Over the next 200 years very few new habitats where built, and then apparently the population began to shrink drastically. The process was well-ordered, and as habitats and cities were depopulated the remaining people cleaned them out, de-orbited useless habitats and removed everything useful. In the end the population was concentrated to a few centers, and by 2950 they too had disappeared. The last survivors appear to have detonated antimatter charges to obliterate the last traces of their culture.

There are no known surviving descendants from the Fragans, although the Hyl Op of Ghane III show some suggestive genomic similarities. It is regarded as possible that a Fragan expedition may have reached the Ghane system, but there are no historical records of any such event (which is not unlikely, since the Hyl Op were undergoing their civil wars during the speculated period, and the era of the diver princes afterwards erased much of the remaining historical archives).

The disappearance of the Fragans poses many questions. What could change the dynamics of a major expansive empire so totally? Why did the last Fragans wipe out the remnants of the Empire?

One explanation could have been some widespread infertility problem, such as the loss of control over encrypted genomes making every individual unable to mate with anybody else. But the technologically advanced Fragans should have been able to solve this, at worst by cloning. Also, only 12% of the genomes sequenced actually show signs of encrypted genes.

The spread of a nihilistic or devolutionary ideology or religion has also been suggested, but does not seem to fit the orderly retreat. The retreat does not appear to have been deliberately anti-archaeological until at the very end, rather a simple and rational reclamation of unused resources. Momuless researchers have advanced the theory that the Fragans were plagued by some kind of cultural guilt or shame, which undermined their empire. Another possibility is an external or internal threat, such as memetic warfare or a subtle economic virus.

One theory, very popular in the 7600-7900 period, was that the Fragans, for some reason, had left, likely in the direction of the Perseus Arm. If they had built colony ships and embarked on them in an orderly fashion, then the disappearance could be explained, at least partly (the reason for emigration of course remains unsolved). The lack of shipyards could be explained by re-use of the materials. However, no trace of Fragan colonies beyond the Sphere has ever been found and there is little evidence of any colony activity.

Fragan technology was largely based on nanotechnology, using centralized matter management facilities. These facilities were used for recycling unused matter, which is another reason so little finds have been found except for the matter management facilities themselves, often major structures clad in highly resilient ceramic surfaces.

The biological environment was handled by subturing splices. Many species remain in the wild but did not retain sufficiently coherent cultures to give any information. One species, the Fragan helpermonkey, has been subsequently provolved and currently make up the majority of inhabitants on Hulos and Rholandi.

The Fragans appear to have consistently stored all their information on active optomagnetic media, readable by their modified anatomy but decaying over time if not refreshed. This has made Fragan information extremely scarce, as practically none of the stores have survived. Even with nanoscale reconstruction the media are nearly useless due to the coding systems and unknown data formats.

From style analysis the Empire appears to have encompassed at least three major cultures, possibly many more. Initially they have been called the Angulars, Delayers and Typographers. They show enough similarities to suggest that the cultures were closely linked, possibly different expressions of an underlying central Fragan culture. The technological and social consistency supports this.

The Angular culture is dominated by highly angular and linear art, architecture and design. It encompasses 43% of all known sites, and may have been dominant. Given the architecture and infrastructure designs, archaeologists have reached a consensus that it was likely a highly centralized, hierarchical culture based on small groups of 20-30 persons, perhaps extended families or work teams.

The Delayer culture is distinguished by their use of delay circuits in surviving electronics, the only major deviation from standard Fragan technology. It encompasses 31% of all known sites. The significance of the delay circuit remains controversial, but many pictorial descriptions of its function have been uncovered in Delayer cities.

The Typographer culture is dominated by decorative uses of symbol-like ornaments on nearly all artificial objects. Their shapes do not closely resemble the Fragan alphabet, but may be a parallel or historical writing system. Linguistic analysis has however not detected any semantic content, and the syntax appears to consist of commonly repeated themes and structures rather than language. The common interpretation is that the Fragan typography emerged from a real writing system, but became purely ornamental and non-semantic. Typographer sites encompass 26% of the found sites, although similar themes are found mixed into other cultures.

Fragan art was apparently never figurative, which suggest some radical shift in culture or cognition from most other human clades. The structures of the art-like objects imply that some of the Gestalt psychology was also altered, leading to different clustering and grouping preferences.

The lack of advanced AI is curious. While some electronics found imply at least nanotech AI, no functioning AI or high order AI hardware has been found. There are also very few vec bodies. One explanation could be that the AIs were highly centralized, possibly making up the government. Another is that the Fragans were descended from AI-sceptics that limited the use of AI, despite the disadvantages. Some archologists have suggested that this lack of superturing intelligence contributed to their fall, but there is no evidence either way.

The Fragans remain one of the major enigmas of the rimwards Orion Arm. They will doubtless pose riddles for millennia to come.


Bryce E. Racron (ed.), The Fragan Sphere, Olen Archimedia, Shamash (8252).

Ind-43489, Matterlike Windchild & Nomos Trayskander, Fragan Colonization Principles, Tyrene University Press, Hermes Orbital (9332)

Elãn dal Wolfa-Kauned (ed.) Encyclopaedia of Fragan Archeology, Fragan Institute, Fragan III (8499).

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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg

Initially published on 17 February 2002.