- The protohumans were semi-sentient animals in the Beast Wars portion of the Generation One continuity family
Millions of years ago in a valley in eastern Africa, there lived tribes of protohuman primates. At the time of initial contact with Transformers, there was little obvious external difference between the protohumans and other animals sharing their environment. But since the protohumans were destined to evolve into the modern human race, which would in turn play a key role in the Great War, these simple creatures were targeted for destruction by the time-travelling Predacons.
When first seen, the protohumans were clearly in a pre-civilization state, living as hunter-gatherers, unable to use tools, wear clothes, or defend themselves from predators, and communicating only by animalistic grunting and body language. After Megatron had conclusively proven that he could use the information on the Golden Disk to shape the unfolding of future events, he decided to exterminate the protohumans and thus prevent their descendants from helping the Autobots win the Great War. The Predacons began a heavy assault on the protohuman valley, and succeeded in injuring some of them, but their plan was foiled by Dinobot, who not only saved the creatures but also inspired them to use tools in self-defense and food-gathering.
The surviving protohumans scattered across a wide area. Since Transformer scanners have a hard time tracking organic lifeforms, this meant it would be impossible for a similar attack to be attempted again.
Instead, Megatron designed his hunting team of Cyber raptors, vicious clones of Dinobot using experimental Transmetal 2 technology, and unleashed them to roam freely killing any protohumans they encountered. By that point protohuman culture had advanced significantly: rudimentary tool use was widespread, individuals garbed themselves in animal skins, and both walking and communication had become more sophisticated. They had not, however, advanced to the point where they could defend themselves from laser-shooting cyborg dinosaurs, so the Maximals had to save them again.
As the protohumans observed and interacted with Transformers more and more frequently, their own ability to use technology grew more sophisticated. Cheetor can probably take some credit for this, as he was holding regular lessons teaching the young Protohumans Chak and Una how to use simple machines such as levers, pulleys, and hinges. He also taught them the basics of combat, including how to defend themselves from Transformers, though he preferred that they be constructive and non-violent. Megatron sought to take advantage of the protohumans' ingenuity by kidnapping one and forcing her to complete the construction of an unstable energon cannon, but the young primate actually outsmarted him.
Eventually, protohumans developed the knowledge to create complex dwelling structures in cliff caves and freestanding houses, as well as mastery of fire, division of labor, gender roles, and mass-production of musical instruments and sturdy weapons such as spears. With that technology and training on their side, a tribe of protohuman warriors was able to repulse the (admittedly scatterbrained) team of Inferno and Quickstrike.
Megatron's continuing obsession with the protohumans eventually hastened his own defeat. Believing that "no score is too small to settle," he ordered Dinobot II to unleash the full firepower of the Nemesis upon a protohuman—a command so unfair and dishonorable that it sowed the seeds of Dinobot II's eventual revolt against his master. After the Predacons were finally defeated, Waspinator lived among the "fleshybots" for a time and was worshipped as a ruler or deity.
After Waspinator angered them by flicking rocks at their heads, the protohumans revolted against him, chasing him out of their camp and catapulting him off a palm tree.
- The Vok were aware of the existence and importance of the protohumans, since one of the relief images on the Alien Disk is a humanoid figure standing next to a tree. Precisely what their goals were for humanity is unknown. Beast Wars story editor Bob Forward later said that among the many unrealized ideas behind the Vok was the notion that they had put Earth's mysterious energon supplies there as a clean energy source to be used by eventual human descendants.
- It is not possible to correlate the Beast Wars protohumans with any real prehistoric hominid. The era in which Beast Wars is set has varied wildly throughout different media, but for any of the purported time periods the level of physical and cultural advancements among the protohumans does not match what the fossil record actually shows. Megatron refers to them as "early anthropoids", Cheetor calls them "advanced anthropoids", and the script calls them Neanderthals. At least no one called them "Leader-1".