One of the earliest molecular signs of segmentation in Drosophila embryos is the striped expression of some pair-rule genes during the blastoderm stage. Two of these genes, fushi-tarazu (ftz) and even-skipped (eve) are expressed during this stage in complementary patterns of seven stripes which develop and disappear in concert. Here, we map the cells expressing each of these two pair-rule genes with respect to the 14 stripes of cells expressing the engrailed gene. We find that both ftz and eve generate stripes which have sharp boundaries at the anterior margin, but fade away posteriorly. The anterior boundaries correspond cell by cell with the anterior boundaries of expression of the engrailed gene. We therefore suggest that a key function of early ftz and eve gene activity is the formation of a sharp stable boundary at the anterior margin of each stripe. These boundary lines, rather than the narrowing zonal stripes, would delimit the anterior boundaries of engrailed and other homoeotic genes and thereby subdivide the embryo into parasegments.