Sea-level change in the Persian Gulf since the time of the last maximum glaciation at about 18 000 yr BP is predicted to exhibit considerable spatial variability, because of the response of the Earth to glacial unloading of the distant ice sheets and to the meltwater loading of the Gulf itself and the adjacent ocean. Models for these glacio-hydro-isostatic effects have been compared with observations of sea-level change and palaeoshoreline reconstructions of the Gulf have been made. From the peak of the glaciation until about 14 000 yr BP the Gulf is free of marine influence out to the edge of the Biaban Shelf. By 14 000 yr BP the Strait of Hormuz had opened up as a narrow waterway and by about 12 500 years ago the marine incursion into the Central Basin had started. The Western Basin flooded about 1000 years later. Momentary stillstands may have occurred during the Gulf flooding phase at about 11 300 and 10 500 yr BP. The present shorelines was reached shortly before 6000 yr ago and exceeded as relative sea level rose 1-2 m above its present level, inundating the low-lying areas of lower Mesopotamia. These reconstructions have implications for models of the evolution of the Euphrates-Tigris-Karun delta, as well as for the movements of people and the timing of the earliest settlements in lower Mesopotamia. For example, the early Gulf floor would have provided a natural route for people moving westwards from regions to the east of Iran from the late Palaeolithic to early Neolithic.