Past fluctuations of the Antarctic ice sheet are poorly understood because of a lack of datable materials, radiocarbon reservoir ages and severe environments. Direct evidence of the timing of ice retreat is important in order to understand the Antarctic contribution to global sea-level rise since the Last Glacial Maximum. Here we report the first exposure ages constraining the timing of the last deglaciation from Lützow-Holm Bay, East Antarctica. Our data suggest that the final retreat of the ice sheet in the region occurred rapidly in the early Holocene and the reduction of the ice thickness in the region was at least 350 m. This occurred after the major Northern Hemisphere deglaciation. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.