The subpial granular layer (SGL) is a transient cell layer in the cortical marginal zone during the period of neuronal migration into the cortical plate. The origin of the SGL has been studied by immunocytochemistry for calretinin (CR) and reelin in human foetuses from 11 to 40 gestational weeks (GW). At 11 GW, the paleocortical ventricle, a rostral dilatation of the lateral ventricle, gives rise to two fountainheads: a medial fountainhead provides neurons for the marginal zone (MZ) of the rostral cortex and rostral hippocampal rudiment, while multiple cell streams migrate from a lateral fountainhead into the MZ of the paleocortex and insula. The latero-medial gradient of neuronal packing density in the neocortical MZ indicates that migration extends farther into the neocortex. Neurons express CR already in the retrobulbar ventricular zone; they express reelin only as they approach the MZ of the paleocortex and rostral archicortex. At 16/17 GW, large numbers of CR-immunoreactive granule cells originate from the same fountainheads, and then direct medially, toward the surface of the anterior perforated substance, and laterally, into the paleocortical MZ, from where they continue into the neocortical SGL following a ventrolateral to dorsomedial gradient. From 13 to 18 GW, reelin is expressed by a subpopulation of granule cells and by Cajal–Retzius-like neurons. By 22 GW, the paleocortical ventricle undergoes regression and no longer supplies the SGL. Our results show that the paleocortical ventricle gives rise to a stream of neurons which extends over the cortical MZ as the subpial granular layer. The fact that SGL derivatives express reelin suggests that this transient cell layer may play a significant role in the establishment of the complex cytoarchitecture of the cerebral cortex.