The earthquakes of central coastal Peru occur principally in two distinct zones of shallow earthquake activity that are inland of and parallel to the axis of the Peru Trench. The interface-thrust (IT) zone includes the great thrust-fault earthquakes of 17 October 1966 and 3 October 1974. The coastal-plate interior (CPI) zone includes the great earthquake of 31 May 1970, and is located about 50 km inland of and 30 km deeper than the interface thrust zone. The occurrence of a large earthquake in one zone may not relieve elastic strain in the adjoining zone, thus complicating the application of the seismic gap concept to central coastal Peru. However, recognition of two seismic zones may facilitate detection of seismicity precursory to a large earthquake in a given zone; removal of probable CPI-zone earthquakes from plots of seismicity prior to the 1974 main shock dramatically emphasizes the high seismic activity near the rupture zone of that earthquake in the five years preceding the main shock. Other conclusions on the seismicity of coastal Peru that affect the application of the seismic gap concept to this region are: (1) Aftershocks of the great earthquakes of 1966, 1970, and 1974 occurred in spatially separated clusters. Some clusters may represent distinct small source regions triggered by the main shock rather than delimiting the total extent of main-shock rupture. The uncertainty in the interpretation of aftershock clusters results in corresponding uncertainties in estimates of stress drop and estimates of the dimensions of the seismic gap that has been filled by a major earthquake. (2) Aftershocks of the great thrust-fault earthquakes of 1966 and 1974 generally did not extend seaward as far as the Peru Trench. (3) None of the three great earthquakes produced significant teleseismic activity in the following month in the source regions of the other two earthquakes. The earthquake hypocenters that form the basis of this study were relocated using station adjustments computed by the method of joint hypocenter determination. ?? 1979 Birkha??user Verlag.