Don’t get too excited, though. The sphinx is not an ancient relic from a bygone people and culture, though one might argue that to some degree in an abstract manner, comparing the America of yesteryear to modern America. The sphinx is actually one of several massive props left over and forgotten from the 1923 Cecil B. DeMille million-dollar silent blockbuster, The Ten Commandments.
Before all of Hollywood’s fancy-schmancy CGI capabilities, folks had to do things the old-fashioned way, by handcrafting the sets used in every scene, including larger than life monuments. The Ten Commandments was one such movie, incorporating nearly two-dozen sphinxes for the film. Each sphinx was made out of Plaster of Paris; the body parts were built in L.A. and were transported for assembly in Guadalupe.
Film historians believe most of the Ten Commandments set was dynamited after completion of the film, and that the 21 sphinxes used were likely buried in a trench.
Representative from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center Doug Jenzen seconded the burial of the sphinxes theory, suggesting further that perhaps the sphinxes were not even buried in a trench, but instead simply reclaimed by nature due to wind, rain and sand. Evidence also showed that the sphinxes were not moved into a trench for burial, but likely resting right where they had been used in the film.
Archaeologists used the silent, epic footage as a rough map for locating the sphinxes, eventually finding one giant sphinx head approximately the size of a pool table in 2012.
Applied EarthWorks historical archaeologist M. Colleen Hamilton stated:
We’d work during the day, and we’d watch the movie at night to figure out what we were finding.
At the time of the sphinx head discovery, archaeologists did not have the time needed to unearth the sphinx’s entire body, so they buried it again to protect it. Two years later they went back to finish the job, but erosion had ruined the site.
Luckily, the body of another of the 21 sphinxes was located instead. It’s color was not as vibrant due to exposure to moisture, but it was enough to exhume and reconstruct a full sphinx with, when combined the head they’d retrieved in 2012. The excavation of the sphinx’s body was led by an archaeology team from Applied EarthWorks and began on Oct. 6, completing the delicate task eight days later on Oct. 14, 2014.
As a result, historians, film buffs, and admirers of Christian novelties will be able to visit and view the reconstructed sphinx from DeMille’s colossal film as early as next year. The Dunes Center will allow visitors to come and ogle a piece of history from one of the most ambitious films of its day.