Archaeologists take to the sky in search of missing movie set

Nov 23, 2015

There is a search underway for more artifacts buried deep in the sands of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. Instead of digging, archeologists are first taking to the sky to find these treasures. 

Credit Dunes Center

Flying high above vast mountains of sand on the San Luis Obispo-Santa Barbara County line, photographers are snapping detailed pictures of the topography below. Their goal is to to pinpoint a large camp, built specifically for a Hollywood movie production of The Ten Commandments nearly a century ago. 

In recent years, a sphinx statue was unearthed in the dunes dating back to the same movie directed by Cecil B. DeMille in the early 1920s. It's currently on display at the Dunes Center in Guadalupe.

Now, a company called Applied Earthworks is helping the center in its search to find even more.

M. Colleen Hamilton is an archaeologist working on the project and said roughly 25-hundred people lived in the camp for several months during the film's production.

"We have one historical photograph of the camp itself and we're trying to align that with features that are currently on the ground to relocate the location," said Hamilton.

Hamilton said the studio had a contract to return the area to its natural state once the filming was complete but evidence shows that didn't happen.

Applied Earthworks expects to do at least one more flyover in the coming weeks and then eventually take the search back down to the ground.