Archaeologists on Hunt to Unearth Long-Buried Movie Set

Flights over desert helping in 'Ten Commandments' search
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2015 7:05 AM CST
Archaeologists on Hunt to Unearth Long-Buried Movie Set
In this 1923 file photo provided by the Guadalupe Dunes Center, whip-wielding overseers drive actors portraying slaves on the set of Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments."   (AP Photo/Guadalupe Dunes Center, File)

Thou shalt restore the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes to their natural state once filming wraps up. That’s the commandment given to movie director Cecil B. DeMille, who filmed his epic The Ten Commandments in the sand dunes on the Central California coast in the early 1920s, KCBX reports. Apparently, though, he didn’t follow through. Now, archaeologists are using aircraft to get a bird’s-eye view of the dunes to unearth more treasures of the movie’s set—a giant sphinx was found earlier this year, but plenty more remains from a "lost city" that boasted a huge temple, four more of those sphinxes, massive statues, a 750-foot-long wall, and amenities for somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 people who worked on the film. DeMille reportedly called the spot “perhaps the most unpleasant location in cinema history,” according to Outside.

After another flyover in the next few weeks by the company Applied Earthworks, the search will resume on the ground, archaeologist M. Colleen Hamilton tells KCBX. "We have one historical photograph of the camp itself and we're trying to align that with features that are currently on the ground," says Hamilton. Doug Jenzen of the nonprofit Dunes Center in Guadalupe tells Outside that minerals in the sand—“a natural desiccant”—have preserved the artifacts remarkably well. However, he says, the sands of the dunes are shifting, leaving the old movie props endangered. “It’s disappearing so fast,” he says. As for the commandment that DeMille restore the area after filming: Instead, per Outside, he supposedly blew it up with dynamite to spite rival directors. (In the real Egypt, archaeologists are pretty excited about what might be a hidden room in King Tut's tomb.)

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