When used to probe Southern blots of TaqI-digested DNAs from unrelated individuals, p1-79, a 900 bp subclone of a random human cosmid, revealed at least 50 fragments, many of which were polymorphic. Each of 27 unrelated individuals tested with p1-79 displayed a distinct band pattern. Similar variation was seen with several other enzymes, including HaeIII, MspI, PstI and PvuII, whereas other enzymes yielded primarily large fragments of greater than 40 kb. In situ hybridization of p1-79 showed that the loci of hybridization are clustered on human chromosome band 1p36; localization of all TaqI fragments to chromosome 1 was confirmed with a human-rodent somatic cell hybrid panel. DNA sequencing of p1-79 revealed several copies of a 39 bp repeat whose variation in copy number might be the basis of the observed length polymorphisms. Studies of 3-generation Utah families suggest that the numerous restriction fragments homologous to p1-79 are inherited as haplotypes, implying that recombination within this cluster of loci is rare and allowing the cluster to serve as a useful marker for human gene mapping.