In 1956, Charlton Heston made Hollywood history playing Moses in "The Ten Commandments" by Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille's first interpretation of the biblical story occurred 33 years earlier when he published a silent version of the story of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt.
Both films were ambitious in their scope, but while the 1956 version was a pioneer in its use of special effects, the silent film required thousands of actors, crew and animals along with an immense construction project.
DeMille commissioned designer Paul Iribe, known as the father of the art deco, to build a splendid 12-story-high, 800-foot-wide complex on the Guadalupe-Nipomo Sand Dunes off the coast of California.
After the wrapped film, the set was too expensive to move and too valuable to be used by a rival filmmaker, so DeMille ordered it buried.
"Cecil B. DeMille did not exist at the top," said author Scott Eyman, author of DeMille's biography, "Empire of Dreams."
"That generation of filmmakers believed in the physics of movies, if they were going to do the Civil War, they did the Civil War, they had a couple of hundred people or a couple of thousand people and they did the Civil War. if DeMille goes to recreate ancient Egypt, he builds it on the same scale that ancient Egypt was built, "Eyman said.
This week, archaeologists unearthed part of one of the 21 sphinxes left by DeMille. They discovered a head of 300 pounds, still intact after almost a century in the sand.
"Since these objects have lasted 94 years, even though they were only built to last two months during filming, it really speaks of the craftsmanship and skill level that artisans could build," said Doug Jenzen, director executive of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dune Center.
The recovery of these Hollywood artifacts is a delicate process. Unlike the Great Sphinx of Giza, which was carved by the ancient Egyptians out of rock, the ones built by Iribe are made of Plaster of Paris.
Despite its fragility, the statues recovered this week have a surprising feature for being pieces forged in a black and white film: they were painted.
"They would have used different pigments in film decoration to create shadows, light and depth and avoid this solid appearance of a single color, either black or white, so in the film they are gray," Jenzen said.
© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.[ad_2]