Sphinx head discovered beneath sands of California

Wind blows dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history

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The head of a sphinx uncovered from beneath the sand dunes of California has blown the dust off one of the greatest stories of extravagance in Hollywood history.

See also: First evidence of Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain has been discovered

The perfectly intact 300-pound plaster head was unearthed by archaeologists excavating the set of Cecil B. DeMille's 95-year-old movie set for The Ten Commandments.

The piece, buried in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, is unlike anything found on previous digs, said Doug Jenzen, Executive Director of the Dunes Center.

"The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact.

Credits: Cover Images

Credits: Cover Images

"This is significant and shows that we're still learning unexpected facets to film historical movie production such as the fact that objects in black and white films were actually painted extremely intense colors."

The story of The Lost City of DeMille dates to 1923, when the legendary director ordered the construction of a lavish Egyptian set including pharaohs, sphinxes, and colossal temple gates, for his silent movie spectacle The Ten Commandments.

Legend has it that after filming, the set was too expensive to move and too valuable to leave for rival film-makers to poach so DeMille had it buried.

In the 1980s, director Peter Brosnan and a group of young filmmakers set out to find the ruins. Over 30 years later, excavations began, and have since turned up a trove of historical artifacts including an entire sphinx broken into pieces.

Credits: Cover Images

Credits: Cover Images

Credits: Cover Images

Everyday relics prohibition liquor bottles, makeup, and tobacco tins "have also been found, shedding light on what life was like for the cast and crew in 1923.

Recently, as archeologists worked to excavate the remainder of a sphinx body left from a previous dig, they were shocked to find the beautifully intact 5 x 3 x 8 foot sphinx head hidden beneath the sand.

In all, 21 sphinxes graced the immense movie set, which was designed by Paul Iribe, known as the Father of Art Deco.

It towered 12 stories high and 800 feet wide. Only a fraction of the set has been recovered.

The Ten Commandments, made in 1923, was lauded for its "immense and stupendous" scenes, as well as it's technical advances in colour film.

It is particularly notable for the special effects sequence on the parting of the Red Sea, which at the time was a visual feat as ground-breaking as the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park or Robert Patrick's liquid metal Terminator in T2.

DeMille actually re-made the film in 1956 and again featured one of the largest sets ever created for a film and was, at that time, the most expensive film ever made.

It proved to be his last film.


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