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When the ice sheets of the last ice age slowly started to disintegrate about 20,000 years ago, Global Sea Level (GSL) started to rise from a level of about 120 m below today's average sea level. Between 14,000 years and 8,000 years BP, GSL rose on average by 1.9 m/century, and in some centuries, rates were much higher. In many locations, coastal LSL started to change rapidly with large drops in LSL close to the melting ice masses and a rise reaching up to 150% of the global average far away from the ice loads.

GSL became rather stable around 8,000 years ago with average rates of changes dropping down to about 0.1 m/century or less. In many areas, where no large subsidence took place, humans could finally settle in the coastal zone. Rowley et al., (2007) speculate that human civilizations may have been able to develop as rapidly as they did over the last few millenniums because sea level was largely stable and allowed human settlements to persist over a long time in the coastal zone.