The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes on California's central coast are a National Natural Landmark, one of the largest remaining dune systems in the state, and they're hiding the remains of the enormous and elaborate movie set built for Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 film, The Ten Commandments. The set included four 35-foot-tall statues of Ramses II, a 110-foot-tall gate, an 800-foot-wide temple, and 21 sphinxes (each weighing five tons), all of which, post-filming, were just left to be swallowed by the dunes (legend has it they were too expensive to bring back to Los Angeles, where they'd been built). This week, one of the sphinxes has been exhumed by a team of archaeologists, and it's pretty well-preserved considering it's been sitting out there for more than 90 years, says the LA Times, in what's now being called the Lost City of DeMille.
In 2012, these same archaeologists partially uncovered another sphinx, but they ran out of money before they could finish and had to temporarily abandon ship. Upon returning, they found that the elements had caused that piece to more or less "implode," but the wind had also uncovered another sphinx nearby—this one faceless, but with an intact body. The sphinxes were made of plaster that had, understandably, thinned over time; the director of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center compared the pieces to "a hollow chocolate rabbit."
Eventually, the sphinx body (and the head of another sphinx) will be on display at the Dunes Center, but we've collected a few screencaps from the original film that show the scope of the whole set. Looking back at the original film, it's still incredible that all of that was built—even out of plaster—for a movie, and then just abandoned. One of the archaeologists involved says "I've worked on sites all over the country, and I think this one could only happen in California."