Archaeologists Save Sphinx Buried in ... California

Relics from Cecil B. DeMille's 'Ten Commandments' set restored
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2015 5:26 AM CDT
Hollywood Sphinx Saved From Calif. Desert
A giant chariot driver's foot and leg emerge from windblown sand at Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, the site of Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 silent epic, "The Ten Commandments."   (AP Photo/Santa Maria Times, Len Wood)

After months of painstaking work in the sands of California, archaeologists have managed to restore a sphinx and other relics from a lost age—1920s Hollywood. The sphinx, one of 21 used in Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 movie The Ten Commandments, has been restored after it was excavated from California's Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. DeMille left an enormous set buried there, but what the San Luis Obispo Tribune calls the "Lost City of DeMille" started to be uncovered as sands shifted in the 1990s. The relic goes on display at a nearby cultural center today, and LiveScience notes that in humid conditions, working with the plaster sphinx archaeologists call Nora wasn't easy and she's not quite as good as new: There's a bullet hole in her stomach, as well as graffiti reading "May 1930," and her head—along with the rest of her top half—is still in the sands.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center Executive Director Doug Jenzen tells the Tribune that after the first sphinx they tried to remove crumbled, they spotted what looked like a "giant white buffalo wing" sticking out of the sand and found Nora. He notes that other artifacts on display, including tobacco tins and "cough syrup" bottles that probably held bootleg liquor, show that a lot of people had a "pretty good time" making the silent film. Also on display: a blackened piece of toast from the film camp. "It's definitely not edible anymore," Jenzen says. The 10.5-foot-long sphinx body, the toast, and a sphinx head found during a previous excavation will be unveiled at a 1920s-themed party tonight, reports the Lompoc Record. (Relics from a much earlier age were torched during a Burning Man festival in Israel.)

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