Archaeologists working in a California desert this week dug up two giant sphinxes used on the set of the 1923 silent film “The Ten Commandments.” The sphinxes were famously dynamited and left buried in the Guadalupe Dunes after the completion of filming by director Cecil B. DeMille.
According to the Lompoc Record, Applied Earthworks archaeologists first discovered one of the giant sphinxes in the desert in 2012. In the film, 21 giant sphinxes, each standing 12 feet tall and weighing five tons, flanked the avenue leading to “Pharaoh’s City.” Due to financial and time constraints, archaeologists were only able to remove the head of the sphinx. This year’s dig was initially undertaken to excavate the body of the sphinx and reunite it with the head.
However, while they were digging, archaeologists came upon a second, smaller sphinx, and immediately began working to exhume it.
“Last week in a preproject survey, we found the wind had blown the sand off and it pretty much imploded,” Dunes Center Executive Director Doug Janzen told the Record. “But the wind also uncovered another piece 20 feet away that turned out to be another sphinx, and it’s in much better shape.”
Archaeologists on the dig had to use innovative techniques to prevent the nearly 100-year-old sculpture from eroding while they brought them up from the ground. The team reportedly came up with a technique that uses a thin sheet of plastic and foam insulation to prevent the fragile material from breaking.
“The piece over there we’re working on is more robust,” archaeologist Leeann Haslouer told the Record, referring to the smaller sphinx. “This one’s not nearly as sturdy, so it’s more of a challenge. It’s nice to work and learn on the sturdier piece before we move to this one.”
The dig reportedly cost $120,000 to undertake. Once completely excavated, the sphinxes will be put on display at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center as part of an exhibit on the 1923 film.
A video of the excavation can be seen below.