“The first sight of those paintings was simply unbelievable,” Morse said. “I was amazed at how the colors held up after thousands and thousands of years — like they were just painted the day before. Most people don’t realize how huge some of the paintings are. There are pictures of animals there that are ten, fifteen feet long, and more.”Like so many of these sites, Lascaux has been closed to regular visitors in recent years due to the potential damage wrought by the outside world, so these photographs, despite their age, are still a valuable resource.
“But it wasn’t a comfortable assignment,” Morse remembers. “It wasn’t a refined setting. It was a dungarees-and-sweatshirt job. When we first went down, there were no steps or anything. You slid down on a piece of wood, or on your rear end on the bare earth. A bit later, we put in some very rough wood steps, but it was easier to work underground than it was to get ourselves and all of our gear down there in the first place.”
Geology In 1947, Life Magazine's Ralph Morse received an unusual assignment; to the be the first photographer to document the recently discovered Lascaux caves, whose glorious ancient paintings had to led to it being dubbed "a Versailles of prehistory". In 1996, Life spoke to him about the process: