Several months ago, Campbell Price, a curator of Egyptian art at the Manchester Museum in Great Britain, noticed that a statue from the Middle Kingdom had rotated in its glass case 180 degrees, so that its backside was facing the public. He suspected a prank. “Most Egyptologists are not superstitious people,” he wrote on the museum’s blog. When the museum trained a camera on the statue, the time-lapsed footage didn’t capture pranksters on tape — instead it showed the statue rotating imperceptibly on its own throughout the day and night.
The 10-inch tall stone carving dates back to 1,800 B.C. and bears an inscription on the back calling on the Egyptian god Osiris to accept it as an offering from the dead.
Price has denied accusations of engineering a publicity stunt. “I promise that I haven’t been spinning the statuette,” he wrote to a skeptic on Twitter. Nonetheless, the museum has struggled to explain the statue’s rotations. One theory holds that vibrations from patrons’ footsteps or nearby traffic jiggled the statue out of place. But that doesn’t explain why neighboring artifacts haven’t budged an inch or why the statue suddenly started to move after standing for years in perfect stillness, as statues tend to do.
According to BBC News, a prominent television physicist in England has weighed in with the theory that “differential friction” between the statue’s stone and the glass shelf has created a gentle vibration that shifted the statue out of place. But the freakiest clue comes from Price, who told the Telegraph that the statue was placed in a tomb where it could serve as a vessel for the departed’s spirit. He added, “Maybe that is what is causing the movement?”