|The Quark Epoch, lasting from
10^-12 to 10^-6 seconds, followed the Electroweak
Epoch. Now that the universe has cooled down to about
10 quadrillion degrees and the four fundamental forces
are separate, the universe had a higher degree of
stability. It is here we begin to see the rapid
formation of quarks and anti-quarks. These particles
collide and annihilate one another on impact. In one
of the more bizarre twist's of nature, a process known
as baryogenesis caused a surplus of quarks to began to
accumulate. Baryogenisis theorizes that for about one
in every billion quark-antiquark collisions the quark
was not annihilated. This assymetry of quarks to
antiquarks is the reason why mass exists today,
otherwise particles may have just collided and
destroyed each other until the end of time.
note: at this point in time, you should be questioning what "the end of time" even means. Good. You've been paying attention.
The build-up of quarks and the presence of gluons (a boson force-carrier particle) caused the consistency of the universe to be a densely populated quark-gluon "soup". It is named as such because observation of particle collisions have given physicist's reason to believe that the universe was a plasma at this point in time. Up until these observations, the prevailing theory was that the universe was a gas during the Quark Epoch.
The combination of quarks and gluons make-up protons and neutrons, but during the quark epoch they had too much energy to be confined inside them. However, the age of subatomic particles was on the horizon.
Phase Diagram of Quark-Gluon "Soup"
-Note that during the Quark Epoch the Quark-Gluon Plasma was too hot and too dense to be confined and form a sub-atomic particle.