"The Covenant are imitative, not innovative."
The Covenant are a super advanced collection of extra-terrestrial beings who believe that a race of Highly intelligent "Forerunners" went on a great journey over a hundred thousand years ago and that, by activating the Sacred Halo rings, they too will be able to embark on this Great Journey. The Covenant's technology is centuries ahead of any Human accomplishments, but they would not have been able to reach that point if not for the Forerunners(and by extension, the Precursors) laying the seeds(in the form of ancient ruins of Forerunner constructs and technology) for their empire. If the Covenant(or more specifically the Prophets) had not discovered, and dissected, Forerunner relics, they would simply be a rabble of unequipped and ignorant creatures stuck within a few light years of their Home systems. What I am trying to say is that the races of the Covenant were only able to become so advanced through the Forerunners' "leftovers", and that Humans developed the technology(if a little more barbaric) by themselves. Tobias Fleming Shaw and Wallace Fujikawa didn't have ancient Forerunner technology to base their creations upon, they only had the laws set down by previous scientists, such as Einstein and his theory of relativity, whereas, the Prophets imitated the Forerunners. Doesn't that show that we are just as advanced as those who call us "infidels" and "heretics?" I'm not exactly sure as far the time line of the Covenant races' advancements, because I do know that the Kig Yar created ships, but they had no slip space capabilities before they were adopted into the Covenant, while they sill remained much less advanced than the sleeker Destroyers and Flagships. I still stand with my theory that Humans had no base, but started from scratch as far as interplanetary travel.