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'Egyptian' Ruins Reveal Classic Hollywood Era

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Epic pieces of Hollywood history buried in the sands of time -- it's one man's mission to bring an Egyptian city back to life.

It began when Peter Brosnan, a social worker for Los Angeles County, was still a student at NYU nearly 30-years ago. A friend had an idea for a documentary based on comments from legendary director Cecil B. DeMille, who joked that thousands of years later, archeologists would uncover what they believed was an unknown Egyptian civilization north of Los Angeles.

The tiny town of Guadalupe in northern Santa Barbara County is where DeMille made his film classic "The Ten Commandments" in 1923.

"This was sort of the wild west days in Hollywood," Brosnan says. "If DeMille had left this glorious set standing, no doubt a day or two later some rival filmmaker would be there filming a quick and cheap movie on the set. They would have been on the streets with it before DeMille could finish his."

Over budget and behind schedule, DeMille buried it in sand, where it remained submerged for decades, until the early '80s when storms moved much of the sand.

"For the first time in 60 years, literally acres of buried Egyptian statuary had been uncovered and was looking up at us," Brosnan says. "We realized DeMille had buried a lot more than just sphinxes."

Some of the exposed pieces are now on display at the Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes Center. Photos show pharaohs' heads under construction and life on a movie set in the early '20s.

But it is in the excavation where Brosnan has hit some roadblocks in the past with getting funding and permitting to line up.

Now with a grant from the DeMille family and an "interested third party", Brosnan hopes the path can be unearthed and turned into history.

"We've saved Ben Franklin's printing press, but we've saved almost nothing from the early days of Hollywood, and this was when one of the most important industries of the Twentieth Century was being developed," Brosnan said.

"DeMille very thoughtfully buried virtually an entire motion picture history museum under the sand at Guadalupe," Brosnan continues, "and if we can save even a little piece of that, I think we will have done something worthwhile."

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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