The characteristics of the Parkfield, California earthquake sequence of 1966 are presented. Historically, the epicentral region is one of the three most seismic areas along the San Andreas fault in central California. It is characterized, however, by a relatively high incidence of large earthquakes in proportion to smaller shocks, compared to other active zones. The 1966 sequence occurred in an area where measured deformation across the fault for 1959-1965 shows a decrease from about 2 cm/year to the north to zero to the south of the area. Neither micro-earthquake nor normal seismic activity prior to the sequence gave indication of its coming. Seismicity before the sequence was confined to the north of the active zone, with some indication of convergence of foci toward the location of the initial shocks. The early aftershock distribution extended 20 km south of the main shock; cracking occurred to 33 km south of the main shock; and intense aftershock activity for the entire sequence extended 27 km south of the main shock. At least 95 per cent of the earthquakes, including the three largest, have P-wave radiation patterns consistent with right lateral transcurrent motion on the San Andreas fault. Earthquakes of the sequence fall very closely along the fault trace. About 75 per cent of the total strain release for the sequence can be accounted for by earthquakes in the main shock region, the principal shock (M = 5.5) contributing only 25 per cent of the total. The sequence is characterized by a high incidence of large aftershocks, an extensive area of aftershock activity, and average focal depths near 5 km-three properties apparently related, and distinguishing two types of sequence traits in central California.