Remains from 1920s film, Ten Commandments found in California Dunes
Credit: Courtesy of Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center

Archaeologists working in the sand dunes along the central California coast dug up quite a surprise: A sphinx.

OK, so it isn't exactly a centuries-old sculpture like you'd find in Egypt, but the finding is still fascinating. According to the Associated Press, the sphinx head that the team dug up was actually part of the 1923 filming of the “The Ten Commandments.”

Sphinx remnant found in dunes of California from Ten Commandments film
Credit: Courtesy of Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center

“The piece is unlike anything found on previous digs,” Doug Jenzen, executive director of the Dunes Center, told KEYT-TV. “The majority of it is preserved by sand with the original paint still intact. This is significant and shows that we’re still learning unexpected facets to film historical movie production such as the fact that objects in black and white films were actually painted extremely intense colors.”

As KEYT-TV explained, the film’s famed director, Cecil B. DeMille, ordered the construction of the over-the-top set. Built in Santa Barbara, the set included all the accoutrements of ancient Egypt including pharaohs, sphinxes, and enormous temple gates. According to KEY-TV, the set included 21 sphinxes, but only a few of fraction of them have been recovered.

Scene from the movie The Ten Commandment
Credit: Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
1923: The exodus of the Israelites from Egypt through the desert, a scene from the silent film version of 'The Ten Commandments', directed by Cecil B DeMille.
Credit: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

The reason they are now being unearthed is because the cost of constructing the set reportedly ran so high that the crew had no money left to take it down. Instead, they simply buried it in the dunes located about 175 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Luckily for us, the dunes actually acted as a protective barrier for the set. Had the crew buried it in any other ground it would “turn to mush,” according to Jenzen. Other pieces of the set that have been unearthed include prohibition liquor bottles, makeup and tobacco tins.

Once the artifacts are cleaned and cataloged they are then displayed at the Dunes Center Museum in downtown Guadalupe, California, for all to see. The newest sphinx is expected to go on display sometime in early 2018.