By Pat Saperstein, Deputy Editor, Variety
It’s not ancient history, but the Egyptian-style artifacts from Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” continue to be unearthed in the Guadalupe-Nipomo sand dunes on the central California coast.
The most recent discovery is an intact 300 lb. plaster sphinx head, which was unearthed in early November by archaeologists excavating the 95-year old movie set.
“The piece is unlike anything found on previous digs,” Doug Jenzen, executive director of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, said in a statement. “The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact.”
Jenzen noted that though the 1923 film was in black and white, the set, designed by Peter Iribe, was nonetheless painted in vibrant colors. DeMille had an extensive set constructed among the vast dunes that included pharoahs, sphinxes and colossal temple gates.
Along with liquor bottles and tobacco tins, excavators have unearthed several sphinxes out of the 21 that were built for the set. Director Peter Brosnan set out to find the ruins in the 1980s, though excavation didn’t begin until several years later.
Brosnan’s 2017 documentary “The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille” tells the story of the project, including interviews with residents who witnessed the filming in 1923.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is among the organizations helping fund the costly excavation activities. The artifacts can be viewed at the Dunes Center museum in Guadalupe, where the latest sphinx head will go on display in summer, 2018.