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 LIFE.com his memories of what it was like to encounter the long-hidden, strikingly lifelike handiwork of a vanished people: the Cro-Magnon.
Life Online - Inside Lascaux: Rare, Unpublished