I know that quarks can never exist in isolation, and also group up so that they have a net neutral colour charge. But I am wondering at the start of the universe, or under very, very extreme conditions (such as the start of the universe) would quarks have been able to exist by themselves. I have this question because I've seen that quarks came before atomic nuclei (and therefore protons) in the big bang. So does this mean that before protons, there were some quarks by themselves, or did every single quark form another type of hadron or meson or something else? Would pentaquarks and other large groups of quarks have been common at the start?