Image: Campbell Price
This 4,000-year-old Egyptian relic has got the moves. Curators of the Manchester Museum were surprised to discover that the statue of Neb-Senu, originally an offering to Osiris, the god of the dead and ruler of the underworld, has moved on its own.
Most Egyptologists are not superstitious people. When I first noticed that one of our Middle Kingdom statuettes (Acc. no. 9325) had been turned around 180 degrees to face the back of its case in our new Ancient Worlds galleries, I wondered who had changed the object’s position this without telling me. The Egyptians themselves would have appreciated the concern to make visible for passers-by the text on its back pillar – a prayer for offerings for the deceased. Yet the next time I looked into the case, the statue was facing in another direction – and a day later had yet another orientation. None of the other objects in the display had moved. The case was locked. And I have the only key.
Was it a case of Night at the Museum, where museum relics come to life at night? The curators set up a camera to monitor the statuette and captured the mystery in action:
The statuette is something that used to go in the tomb along with the mummy.
“Mourners would lay offerings at its feet. The hieroglyphics on the back ask for ‘bread, beer and beef’.
“In Ancient Egypt they believed that if the mummy is destroyed then the statuette can act as an alternative vessel for the spirit. Maybe that is what is causing the movement.”
Physicist Brian Cox of BBC's Wonders of Life suggested that the relic's strange movement is due to "differential friction" between the glass surface and the bottom of the statuette and the vibrations due to the footsteps of passing visitors make the relic move.
But not everybody's buying that explanation, including the Price, who told the Independent "But it has been on those surfaces since we have had it and it has never moved before. And why would it go around in a perfect circle?"
What do you think, Neatoramanauts? What message do you think the strange rotating statue is trying to tell us?