Transatlantic exploration took place centuries before the crossing of Columbus. Physical evidence for early European presence in the Americas can be found in Newfoundland, Canada1,2. However, it has thus far not been possible to determine when this activity took place3,4,5. Here we provide evidence that the Vikings were present in Newfoundland in AD 1021. We overcome the imprecision of previous age estimates by making use of the cosmic-ray-induced upsurge in atmospheric radiocarbon concentrations in AD 993 (ref. 6). Our new date lays down a marker for European cognisance of the Americas, and represents the first known point at which humans encircled the globe. It also provides a definitive tie point for future research into the initial consequences of transatlantic activity, such as the transference of knowledge, and the potential exchange of genetic information, biota and pathologies7,8.