If you’re in search of sphinxes and pyramids and mummies, you may not have to go as far as you think: archaeologists in California have just finished excavating a giant sphinx. While it may not be an ancient Egyptian artifact, the story behind it is still super rad. It’s actually the remains of one of America’s most elaborate (at the time, at least) silent movies— Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments”.
Only a short part of the 1923 epic, which was inspired by a contest that allowed members of the public to suggest the next movie idea for DeMille, features the scenes about Moses and the Biblical story of the 10 Commandments. But, those scenes were easily the movie’s most magnificent. In fact, the 12-story set was the largest ever commissioned for the time, and it was all planning by famed Art Deco designer Paul Iribe. The scenes were filmed in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, because the rolling, sandy hills look strikingly similar to the Egyptian desert.
After the movie was finished filming, DeMille ordered the “Pharoh’s City” sets blown up with dynamite and buried in the dunes, their location a closely guarded secret. The set was far too costly to dismantle, but the studio didn’t want rival filmmakers using even pieces from the incredible set for themselves, either. It wasn’t until 1983 when a group of “determined film buffs” used cryptic clues from DeMille’s posthumous autobiography to find the location of the set. In the 1990s, Director Peter Brosnan dug up the first sphinx, using a grant received to help fund the dig.
“The Lost City of DeMille”, as its known, has been under excavation since 2012 and the dig is still ongoing. There are 21 sphinxes in the dunes, each 12 feet tall and weighing 5 tons. The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center displays artifacts dug up from the set, along with other objects from the filming, and in 2018, they’ll be adding even more.
More California dreamin’…