Never-before published photos of Lascaux paintings


Lascaux painting photographer Bernard Sury focuses a camera on prehistoric paintings on the ceiling at Lascaux, 1947. Previously unpublished

Here's a treat from the archives of LIFE magazine — the first photos of the cave paintings in Lascaux, including some unpublished photos.

September 12, 1940. A warm afternoon in southwestern France. As two schoolboys hunt rabbits on a ridge covered with pine, oak, and blackberry brambles, their dog chases a hare down a hole beside a downed tree. Widening the hole, removing rocks, the boys follow — and enter not merely another world, but another time. Underground, they discover "a Versailles of prehistory" — a series of caves, today collectively known as Lascaux, boasting wall paintings up to 18,000 years old. In 1947, LIFE's Ralph Morse went to Lascaux, and became the first photographer to ever document the astonishing, vibrant paintings. Here, on the 70th anniversary of the discovery of the cave and its treasures, in a gallery featuring rare and never-published photographs, Morse — still vibrant himself at 93 — shares with his memories of what it was like to encounter the long-hidden, strikingly lifelike handiwork of a vanished people: the Cro-Magnon.

Lascaux: Versailles of Prehistory