THE transition zone between the Earth's core and mantle plays an important role as a boundary layer for mantle and core convection1. This zone conducts a large amount of heat from the core to the mantle, and contains at least one thermal boundary layer2,3; the proximity of reactive silicates and molten iron leads to the possibility of zones of intermediate composition4. Here we investigate one region of the core-mantle boundary using seismic waves that are converted from shear to compressional waves by reflection at the boundary. The use of this phase (known as ScP), the large number of receiving stations, and the large aperture of our array all provide higher resolution than has previously been possible5-7. For the 350-km-long section of the core-mantle boundary under the northeast Pacific sampled by the reflections, the local boundary topography has an amplitude of less than 500 m, no sharp radial gradients exist in the 400 km above the boundary, and the mantle-lo-core transition occurs over less than 1 km. The simplicity of the structure near and above the core-mantle boundary argues against chemical heterogeneity at the base of the mantle in this location.