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Summary of 10,000 Year Scale
Holocene Timeline
Melt record of Agassiz Ice CapHow has the Earth changed in 10,000 revolutions around the sun?

The figure to the left shows the amount of ice melting from an Ice Cap in what is now northern Canada and is based on the work of paleoclimatologist Ray Bradley. Reflecting the warming that has occurred after the most recent ice age, this graph provides a snapshot of the range of variability as measured by melting ice caps that can occur during a time span of 10,000 years. Note that the melting that has occurred during the 20th Century is greater than almost all periods for ~4000 years. (See dashed line).

As we see in Climate Science, scientists looking for long-term patterns of 1,000 years or more in climate and environmental change use a variety of paleo proxies such as tree rings, and cores taken from ice caps and sediment layers from the ocean or lakes to glean data that can provide insight into why climate can abruptly shift in less than a decade.

In Climate History we examine the development of human civilizations during the Holocene-- the past +10,000 years since the last ice age, a period when human population rose from around 5 million to over 6 billion people. In particular we look at the evidence for a cataclysmic flood some 7,600 years ago that created the Black Sea. And in Resources, we look at additional sources of information and inquiry ideas to further explore at this time scale.

Holocene Timeline
Years Before Present (B.P.)
Human Population (estimates from UNESCO)
Human Developments
(254-345 million)

Image of rye-Storage of rye results in occasional growth of a toxic fungal infection (ergot) known as St. Anthony’s fire that can cause hallucinations.
-Chinese develop gunpowder.
Image of rye from USDA.

(170-300 million)
-Spice trade becomes important. European sailors discover how to use monsoon patterns to their advantage.
(50 million)
-Peanuts grown in Peru. Iron age in Europe and Middle East. -Phoenicians sail in the Mediterranean while Polynesians sail the Pacific.
-Iron Age begins around 2650 years ago.
(27 million)
Image of peaches-Bronze smelted in Middle East, combining copper and tin, beginning the Bronze Age.
-Olives, peaches and apricots cultivated in Eastern Mediterranean.
-Drought around 2000 B.C. may have contributed to the collapse of the Akkadia civilization in Mesopotamia, which is regarded as the world's first empire. (Weiss, 1993) Evidence of drought also found along Nile in Egypt, Indus in India and in the Great Basin of western North America. Image of apricots from USDA.
(14 million)

Image of soybeans-Five sacred crops in ancient China: soybeans, rice, wheat, barley and millet. -Sorghum used in sub-Saharan Africa.
-Egypt unified under one Pharaoh.
Image of soybeans from USDA.

(7 million)
-Neolithic (New Stone Age) period, with farming and elaborate stone houses built in Britain.
-Cotton grown in Pakistan, cultivated grapes in Afghanistan.
(5 million)

Image of corn-Squashes, beans, chili peppers and an early type of corn (Zea mays) cultivated in Meso-America.

-Domesticated rice used in China
Image of corn from USDA.

(5 million)
-Lentils, fava beans and chick peas become part of eastern Mediterranean, with Chili pepper and Lima beans being used in Peruvian highlands.
-Rising sea levels of Mediterranean Sea floods into the basin that now forms the Black Sea around 7,600 years ago. (See Climate History 10,000 years)
-Copper first smelted around this time period.

(5 million)

Image of flax seeds-During Mesolithic period, semi-permanent houses are used and boats are built for transport and fishing.
-Flax in Syria and Turkey for clothing (linen) and oil.
-Abrupt climate change causes much of the planet to become cooler and drier around 8,200 years ago. (Von Grafenstein, 1998
Image of flax seed from USDA.
(5 million)

Image of wheat-First evidence of plant domestication.
Wheat and barley developed in Near East. Barley becomes a daily food staple.
-An estimated 5 million people inhabit the entire planet.
Image of barley from USDA.

Also see: What is Variability? and Overview of Climate Processes.
Images from IGBP/PAGES and USDA.

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