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The date 100,000. BCE was the approximate time when the Forerunners fired the Halos, or what the Covenant refer to as The Great Journey. 343 Guilty Spark put the date as the year 97,448 BCE, though it should be noted that he measured it on Installation 04's year, not the 365.251 day Earth calendar.
The activation was supposed to end the Forerunner-Flood war. It killed all sentient life within three radii of the galactic center, including any Forerunners not located on The Ark or within Shield Worlds. The date, about 100,000 years ago, is around the time our Homo sapiens ancestors began migrating out of Africa. The date is also when the Halo 3: The Cradle of Life comics take place.
05-032 Mendicant Bias Edit
The Forerunner AI known as 032 Mendicant Bias was designed to battle the Flood but was corrupted by Gravemind and descended into rampancy. He allowed the Flood into the Maginot Line, which gave them the opportunity to attack the Forerunners' inner colonies. This forced the Forerunners to fire the rings and effectively commit "mass suicide." Part of his personality construct was placed in a Keyship which eventually ended up on the San'Shyuum homeworld.