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Photos: 1923 Sphinx from Movie Set Found Buried in Sandy Dune

Buried treasure

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

A remarkably well-preserved plaster-of-paris sphinx was uncovered in the dunes along the California coast, near Santa Barbara. The more than 90-year-old sphinx once graced the movie set of the famous 1923 black-and-white blockbuster "The Ten Commandments."After Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille finished filming the movie, he had the set buried in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. Now, archaeologists are excavating the remains, which include everyday objects from the film's crew, such as prohibition liquor bottles, makeup and tobacco tins. [Read the full story on the sphinx discovery]

Old spoon

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

A spoon unearthed by archaeologists who were excavating the 1923 movie set. This spoon likely belonged to one of the 3,500 actors, extras and construction workers who lived in a nearby tent city and supported the film’s production.

Sphinx shoulder

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

What's left of the crumbling front-left shoulder of the newfound sphinx. This shoulder was the only part that was exposed above the sand before the excavation.

Careful excavation

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

Neil Rhodes, an archaeologist from Applied Earthworks, uses a straw to carefully blow away sand from the sphinx's headdress.

Sphinx paw

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

Amy Higgins, an art restorer, removes sand from the inside of the sphinx's leg and paw.

Gentle brushing

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

Ryan Wendel, an archaeologist with Applied Earthworks, brushes away sand from the left side of a sphinx's face.

Sphinx face

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

The newly discovered sphinx is brightly colored, with a deep terracotta hue. This bold color likely helped the sphinx stand out in the black-and-white movie.

This find is the first known sphinx at the site to retain its color, the team said.

Surfboard technology

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

The excavators weren't allowed to bring machinery into the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, so they used surfboard-style sleds to pull the findings off site.

Art restorer Christine Muratore, archaeologists Rob and Michelle Newcomb, and senior archaeologist M. Colleen Hamilton drag the uncovered sphinx paw off-site, where it will dry for several months before being restored and put on display.

Sideways sphinx

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

A sideways shot of the newly discovered sphinx. Notice its detailed necklace, designed by Paul Iribe, a French artist known as "the father of art deco."

Facing up

1923 movie sphinx photos

(Image credit: Dunes Center)

Another shot of the newfound terracotta-colored sphinx, before it was loaded onto a truck.

[Read the full story on the sphinx discovery]

Laura Geggel
As an associate editor for Live Science, Laura Geggel covers general science, including the environment, archaeology and amazing animals. She has written for The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site covering autism research. Laura grew up in Seattle and studied English literature and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis before completing her graduate degree in science writing at NYU. When not writing, you'll find Laura playing Ultimate Frisbee.