Tight bounds on the cost of cache-oblivious searching are proved. It is shown that no cache-oblivious search structure can guarantee that a search performs fewer than lg e log/sub B/N block transfers between any two levels of the memory hierarchy. This lower bound holds even if all of the block sizes are limited to be powers of 2. A modified version of the van Emde Boas layout is proposed, whose expected block transfers between any two levels of the memory hierarchy arbitrarily close to [lg e + O(lg lg B/ lgB)] logB N + O(1). This factor approaches lg e ≈ 1.443 as B increases. The expectation is taken over the random placement of the first element of the structure in memory. As searching in the disk access model (DAM) can be performed in logBN + 1 block transfers, this result shows a separation between the 2-level DAM and cache-oblivious memory-hierarchy models. By extending the DAM model to k levels, multilevel memory hierarchies can be modeled. It is shown that as k grows, the search costs of the optimal k-level DAM search structure and of the optimal cache-oblivious search structure rapidly converge. This demonstrates that for a multilevel memory hierarchy, a simple cache-oblivious structure almost replicates the performance of an optimal parameterized k-level DAM structure.