|Preceded by the Pleistocene|
*Relative to year 2000 (b2k).†Relative to year 1950 (BP/Before "Present").
The 6th millennium BC spanned the years 6000 BC to 5001 BC (c. 8 ka to c. 7 ka). 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 only exceptions are the felling dates for some construction timbers from Neolithic wells in Central Europe.
This millennium is reckoned to mark the end of the global deglaciation which had followed the Last Glacial Maximum and caused sea levels to rise by some 60 m (200 ft) over a period of about 5,000 years.
Neolithic culture and technology had spread from the Near East and into eastern Europe by 6000 BC. Its development in the Far East grew apace and there is increasing evidence through the millennium of its presence in prehistoric Egypt and the Far East. In much of the world, however, including north and western Europe, people still lived in scattered Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer communities. The world population is believed to have increased sharply, possibly quadrupling, as a result of the Neolithic Revolution. It has been estimated that there were perhaps forty million people worldwide at the end of this millennium, growing to 100 million by the Middle Bronze Age c. 1600 BC.
Four identified cultures starting around 5300 BC were the Dnieper-Donets, the Narva (eastern Baltic), the Ertebølle (Denmark and northern Germany), and the Swifterbant (Low Countries). They were linked by a common pottery style that had spread westward from Asia and is sometimes called "ceramic Mesolithic", distinguishable by a point or knob base and flared rims.
The early Holocene sea level rise (EHSLR), which began c.10,000 BC, tailed off during the 6th millennium. Global water levels had risen by about 60 metres due to deglaciation of ice masses since the end of the Last Ice Age. Accelerated rises in sea level rise, called meltwater pulses, occurred three times during the EHSLR. The last one, Meltwater Pulse 1C, which peaked c. 6000 BC, produced a rise of 6.5 metres in only 140 years. It is believed that the cause was a major ice sheet collapse in Antarctica.
Approximately 8,000 years ago (c. 6000 BC), a massive volcanic landslide off Mount Etna, Sicily, caused a megatsunami that devastated the eastern Mediterranean coastline on the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe.
In South America, a large eruption occurred at Cueros de Purulla c. 5870 BC, forming a buoyant cloud and depositing the Cerro Paranilla Ash in the Calchaquí Valleys. A cataclysmic volcanic eruption occurred c. 5700 BC in Oregon when 12,000-foot (3,700 m) high Mount Mazama created Crater Lake as the resulting caldera filled with water. Another major eruption occurred c. 5550 BC on Mount Takahe, Antarctica, possibly creating an ozone hole in the region.
Astronomy and calendars
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