Californian Archaeologists Unearth An Egyptian Sphinx – NPR

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The 300-pound sphinx is the second recovered from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.

guadalupe-nipomo dunes center/AP


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Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center/AP

The 300-pound sphinx is the second recovered from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center/AP

Archaeologists recently unearthed a curious artifact in California: An Egyptian sphinx.

Unlike the Great Sphinx of Giza, which was made of bedrock, this sphinx was made from plastic. And it wasn’t carved by the ancient Egyptians, but molded by designers on the set of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 biblical epic The Ten Commandments.

Adjusting for inflation, The Ten Commandments is the seventh highest grossing film of all time—and the film set budget records, too, with DeMille spending a reported $13.2 million. The film featured thousands of actors and actresses, and the director commissioned famed art deco designer paul iribe to construct an ancient Egyptian palace for the film’s backdrop. Iribe’s final product was the largest set design of its time, and included more than 20 sphinxes.

After filming was complete, the 12-story set was too expensive to dismantle—and too valuable to leave for rival film studios to pilfer. In a move just as ambitious as his filmmaking, the director ordered it buried at a location unknown to the public.

A scene from the The Ten Commandments, featuring a sphinx. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images


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Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images

A scene from the The Ten Commandments, featuring a sphinx. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images

Director Peter Brosnan and other filmmakers began searching for DeMille’s lost city in Californian dunes in the mid 1980s. In 1990, after receiving a $10,000 grant to fund his archaeology, Brosnan found the very first sphinx buried in Guadalupe, Calif., a small city about 175 miles from Los Angeles.

The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center has found several significant DeMille artifacts in the past few years. “… Even though they were only built to last for two months during filming— it really speaks to the craftsmanship and the level of skill that the artisans could build,” Doug Jenzen, executive director of the center where the recent sphinx was found, told cbs news morning.

The center has good news for Hollywood classic buffs, faux Egyptian aestheticians, and amateur archaeologists alike: It will begin displaying the sphinx and other artifacts from DeMille’s lost city next year.

Tags: art deco designer paul iribe, getty images director peter brosnan, cbs news morning, guadalupe-nipomo dunes center
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