Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Sphinx in California

So did y'all know that there is a Sphinx in California?

I'm reading this article about how history is subjective and re-tells itself and about how we live in a society where people view themselves as being a part of history. It's fascinating.

But anyway, I'm reading along, plugging through dense sentences with words like "confabulate" and "multifarious," and this entertaining story pops up in the article:

In 1923, Cecil B. DeMille directed the film epic The Ten Commandments outside Guadalupe, California. In order to make his film truly unique and "historically accurate," DeMille built, from scratch, an almost-exact replica of parts of the City of the Pharaoh, complete with walls that "rose 110 feet and sprawled 750 feet in width, its entrance flanked by 21 sphinxes and four 35-foot Pharaoh statues." All this was done in wood and plaster-of-paris at a whopping cost of $1.4 million (the most expensive film set ever built in Hollywood).

The best part of this story, however, is not that DeMille built this spectacular set, although that's really neat. The best part is that he had the city buried after wrapping up filming, supposedly so that no one could come in and film on the set before the release of his film.

And so, after only a few months of sunlight, this giant plaster-of-paris "Egyptian" city was buried from sight, where it remained under the sands of Californial for sixty years... until Peter Brosnan, a screenwriter, teacher and documentary-filmmaker decided to dig it up in 1983. Brosnan had the area declared a federally-protected archeological site (which makes it a felony to take anything from the site without permission) and tried to raise money to hold an official excavation of the land (which requires special chemicals to harden the plaster enough to dig it up).

Apparently after twenty years he is still trying to raise money for the excavation, which is rather a shame. I personally think it would fascinating and fun to get the chance to see this giant city of plaster constructed merely for one movie. Once they dig it up, maybe they can transport the sphinxes to one of the theme parks nearby so they can be enjoyed by all.

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