THE curse of Tutankhamen is said to have claimed more than 20 lives. By contrast, the curse of Neb-Senu amounts to little more than an occasional inconvenience for museum curators.

Over several days, the ten-inch Egyptian statuette gradually rotates to face the rear of the locked glass cabinet in which it is displayed, and has to be turned around again by hand.

Those who like tales of haunted pyramids and walking mummies may regard the mystery of the 4,000-year-old relic – an offering to Osiris, god of the dead – as the strangest thing to hit Egyptology in decades.

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Egyptologist Campbell Price studies an ancient Egyptian statuette at the Manchester Museum, which appears to be moving on its own

Egyptologist Campbell Price studies an ancient Egyptian statuette at the Manchester Museum, which appears to be moving on its own

Others, including TV physicist Professor Brian Cox, have a more down-to-earth explanation for its movement.

Whatever the solution, the puzzle certainly won’t dent visitor numbers at its present home, Manchester Museum.

The statuette’s slow about-turn has been captured on film by a time-lapse camera, and curator Campbell Price, 29, says he believes there may be a spiritual explanation.

‘I noticed one day that it had turned around,’ he said. ‘I thought it was strange because it is in a case and I am the only one who has a key.

‘I put it back, but then the next day it had moved again. 

‘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.’

The statue, made by one Neb-Senu in about 1800BC, was donated to the museum in 1933, and had been reassuringly immobile for most of that time.

However Mr Price and his colleagues are now used to finding it facing the rear of its case – perhaps significantly, displaying a prayer on the back requesting ‘bread, beer, oxen and fowl’.

 
Experts decided to monitor the room on time-lapse video and were astonished to see it clearly show the statuette spinning 180 degrees - with nobody going near it

Experts decided to monitor the room on time-lapse video and were astonished to see it clearly show the statuette spinning 180 degrees – with nobody going near it

 

 
In this time lapsed video, as the museum closes for the evening, the statue can be seen in a clearly different position

In this time lapsed video, as the museum closes for the evening, the statue can be seen in a clearly different position

 

 
By midday the next day it has turned almost a quarter of a circle to be facing to the left

By midday the next day it has turned almost a quarter of a circle to be facing to the left

 

 
The following morning the statue has moved again, and is facing even further away from its original position

The following morning the statue has moved again, and is facing even further away from its original position

 
By the end of the day the statue has turned almost 180 degrees and is now facing away from visitors to the museum

By the end of the day the statue has turned almost 180 degrees and is now facing away from visitors to the museum

Their video has recorded it rotating to its left over the course of three days until facing backwards.

Even more mysteriously, it appears to spin only during daylight hours, and does not turn beyond 180 degrees. Some, including Professor Cox, have suggested that vibrations caused by the footsteps of passing visitors makes the statuette turn on its glass shelf.

Mr Price said: ‘Brian thinks it’s “differential friction” where two surfaces, the stone of the statuette and glass shelf it is on, cause a subtle vibration which is making the statuette turn. But it has been on those surfaces since we have had it and it has never moved before.

‘And why would it go a round in a perfect circle? It would be great if someone could solve the mystery.’

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