The two main constituent water masses of the deep North Atlantic Ocean-North Atlantic Deep Water at the bottom and Labrador Sea Water at an intermediate level-are currently formed in the Nordic seas and the Labrador Sea, respectively. The rate of formation of these two water masses tightly governs the strength of the global ocean circulation and the associated heat transport across the North Atlantic Ocean. Numerical simulations have suggested a possible shut-down of Labrador Sea Water formation as a consequence of global warming. Here we use micropalaeontological data and stable isotope measurements in both planktonic and benthic foraminifera from deep Labrador Sea cores to investigate the density structure of the water column during the last interglacial period, which was thought to be about 2 degrees C warmer than present. Our results indicate that today's stratification between Labrador Sea Water and North Atlantic Deep Water never developed during the last interglacial period. Instead, a buoyant surface layer was present above a single water mass originating from the Nordic seas. Thus the present situation, with an active site of intermediate-water formation in the Labrador Sea, which settled some 7,000 years ago, has no analogue throughout the last climate cycle.