rare Lascaux photos

Rare, Unpublished: Lascaux Steer Photo: Ralph Morse/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Jan 01,1947

This is exciting, if you love ancient cave paintings as much as a I do.

LIFE.com has a gallery of previously unpublished rare photos, the first ever taken inside the Lascaux Caves of France. The caves were discovered by accident on September 12, 1940 by two schoolboys but it wasn’t until 1947 that…
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.

“In [Cro-Magnon man’s] most expert period,” LIFE noted in its issue of Feb. 24, 1947 (in which a handful of Morse’s photos appeared), “his apparatus included engraving and scraping tools, a stone or bone palette and probably brushes made of bundled split reeds. He ground colored earth for his rich reds and yellows, used charred bone or soot black for his dark shading and made green from manganese oxide. These colors were mixed with fatty oils. For permanence, the finest pigments of civilized Europe have never rivaled these crude materials.”

It’s a fascinating story with great photos that, to me, inspire awe and admiration for the skills and artistry of these early humans of 17,000 years ago.

Many thanks to ionarts for this link!

September 13, 2010 in History, Photography, Rock Art & Archaeology by Marja-Leena