The synaptonemal complexes of oocytes from 16-22 week human fetuses were spread using detergent and silver-stained for examination by light microscopy. Zygotene chromosome synapsis generally begins at the telomeres, without obvious prealignment, and proceeds towards the centromeres. Synapsis is not synchronous and longer bivalents may sometimes be completely paired before shorter ones. At pachytene, when pairing is usually complete, some regions presumed to correspond to the heterochromatic blocks of chromosomes 1.9 and 16 may remain unpaired. Residual univalents are uncommon, and little interlocking is evident at this stage. Desynapsis indicating the beginning of diplotene frequently begins at the telomeres, although there is a general relaxation of pairing throughout the bivalents which become increasingly diffuse as diplotene proceeds. The total synaptonemal complex complement length at pachytene in the female is 519 micron, which is about twice that found in the human male. The implications of these results for genetic mapping are discussed.