Centromeres represent the final frontier of eukaryotic genomes. Although they are defining features of chromosomes--the points at which spindle microtubules attach--the fundamental features that distinguish them from other parts of the chromosome remain mysterious. The function of centromeres is conserved throughout eukaryotic biology, but their DNA sequences are not. Rather, accumulating evidence favors chromatin-based centromeric identification. To understand how centromeric identity is maintained, researchers have studied DNA-protein interactions at native centromeres and ectopic "neocentromeres". Other studies have taken a comparative approach focusing on centromere-specific proteins, of which mammalian CENP-A and CENP-C are the prototypes. Elucidating the assembly and structure of chromatin at centromeres remain key challenges.