Sphinx Head Found Buried in California Sand Dunes

December 2, 2017 Updated: October 5, 2018

A well-preserved, almost 100-year-old head of a sphinx statue was dug up from sand dunes northwest of Los Angeles.

The 300-pound plaster head was found during the excavation of a movie set in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes some 130 miles from Los Angeles.

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Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, Calif. (Screenshot via Google Maps)

The archeologists seek to recover the set of a 1923 epic silent film “The Ten Commandments” produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The movie’s, at the time lavish, $1.5 million budget allowed for a production of dozens of massive Sphinxes, gates, and pharaoh statues to conjure up an image of ancient Egypt in the sand dunes of Santa Barbara County.

Epoch Times Photo
1923: A scene from silent version of the epic film ‘The Ten Commandments’, also directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The Egyptian pharaoh is surrounded by his guards as he prepares to lead his army. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

When the filming was done, the props were left behind and over time disappeared under the ever-changing dunes. No one seems to know for sure why DeMille abandoned the set. One theory says he buried it intentionally to prevent other filmmakers from using it since moving it would have been too expensive.

In recent years, some archaeologists have worked on excavating the props. One sphinx head was discovered in 2012 and another sphinx in 2014.

The most recent discovery stands out for its excellent condition.

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The head of a 1923 movie prop sphinx statue in Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, Calif. (Dunes Center)

“The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact,” said Doug Jenzen, executive director of the Dunes Center, according to the Mirror.

The head measures 5 feet x 3 feet x 8 feet and was found unexpectedly when digging for another sphinx piece.

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Recovery of a 1923 movie prop sphinx statue in Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, Calif. (Dunes Center)

There were 21 sphinxes used in the film. Most of them are still hidden in the sand, together with the other props.

“This is significant and shows that we’re still learning unexpected facets to … historical movie production such as the fact that objects in black and white films were actually painted extremely intense colors,” Jenzen said.

Filmmaker Peter Brosnan wanted to excavate the movie set in the 1980s, but the dunes were protected as a natural treasure. Brosnan spent decades trying to convince the government to allow a dig, according to Quartz. When he finally succeeded, he only found pieces.

The recent discovery gives archaeologists a hope that some well-preserved remains from the golden era of Hollywood can still be recovered.

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