10th millennium BC
The 10th millennium BC spanned the years 10,000 through 9001 BC. It marks the beginning of the Mesolithic (northern and western Europe) and Epipaleolithic (Levant and Near East) periods, which together form the first part of the Holocene epoch that is generally reckoned to have begun c.9,700 BC (about 11.7ka) and is the current geological epoch. It is impossible to precisely date events that happened around the time of this millennium and all dates mentioned here are estimates mostly based on geological and anthropological analysis.
The main characteristic of the Holocene has been the worldwide abundance of Homo sapiens sapiens (mankind). The epoch began when the Last Ice Age (which started 80ka and is known variously as the Würm or Wisconsin glaciation) ended while Homo sapiens was still in the Palaeolithic (Old Stone) Age. The Younger Dryas is believed to have been current in 10,000 BC and may have ceased c.9,700 BC, marking the cutover from Pleistocene to Holocene. The Younger Dryas was a temporary reversal of the climatic warming that followed the end of the Last Ice Age and coincided with the end of the Upper Palaeolithic.
In the Holocene's first millennium, the Palaeolithic was largely superseded by the Neolithic (New Stone) Age which lasted about 6,000 years, depending on location. The glaciers retreated as the world climate became warmer and that inspired an agricultural revolution, though the dog was probably the only domesticated animal. This was accompanied by a social revolution in that man gained from agriculture the impetus to settle. Settlement is the key precursor to civilisation, which cannot be achieved by a nomadic lifestyle.
The world population, c.10,000 BC, is believed to have been more or less stable. It has been estimated that there were some five million people at the time of the Last Glacial Maximum, growing to forty million by 5000 BC and 100 million by 1600 BC which is an average growth rate of 0.027% p.a. from the Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age. Around 10,000 BC, most people lived in hunter-gatherer communities scattered across all continents except Antarctica and Zealandia. As the Würm/Wisconsin ended, settlement of northern regions was again possible.
Beginnings of agriculture
Agriculture began to be developed in the Near East region called the Fertile Crescent, but it would not be widely practiced for another 2,000 years by which time Neolithic culture was becoming well established in some parts of the Near East. Among the earliest cultivated plants were forms of millet and rice grown in the Middle East, possibly in this millennium but more likely after 9000 BC. It is possible that the earliest sickle blades and grain grinding stones were used in Egypt during this millennium. By about 9,500 BC, people in Asia Minor were harvesting wild grasses and grains.
It is possible that the early cultivation of figs began in the Jordan River valley sometime after the middle of the 10th millennium. There is evidence of buildings at Jericho between 9600 BC and 8200 BC. Besides the fig trees, the people may have begun cultivation of wild plants such as barley and pistachio; and they possibly began herding goats, pigs and cattle. The earliest evidence of sheep herding has been found in northern Iraq, dated before 9,000 BC.
Agriculture developed in different parts of the world at different times. In many places, people learned how to cultivate without outside help; elsewhere, as in western Europe, the skills were imported.
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