A story that, till this day, feels like the remnants of a dream — 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 excitedly chases a hare down a hole in the ground beside a downed tree. As boys will, the youngsters begin to dig, widening the hole, removing rocks, until they’re able to follow their hound down — and find themselves not merely in another world, but another time.
In the cool dark beneath the known world above, the boys discover “a Versailles of prehistory” — a vast series of caves, today collectively known as Lascaux, covered with wall paintings many thousands of years old. In 1947, LIFE magazine’s Ralph Morse went to Lascaux, and became the first professional photographer to ever document the breathtaking, vibrant paintings.
Lucky for us, Morse recently shared his memories of that time and place — and of what it was like to encounter the strikingly lifelike, utterly gorgeous handiwork of a long-vanished people: the Cro-Magnon.
(read more — Inside Lascaux, 1947)