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25th November 2013

Mystery of moving statue at Manchester Museum solved

An engineer has found the cause behind the rotating Egyptian statue at the Manchester Museum
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TLDR

An Egyptian statue in the Manchester Museum that captured the attention of the world’s media as it appeared to rotate on its own, wasn’t cursed after all.

Vibrations expert Steve Gosling has solved the mystery. He discovered that vibrations from museum-goers and outside traffic at peak times in the day caused the 10-inch statue to move.

In April, a time-lapse video captured footage of the 1,800 stone statuette rotating inside its sealed display case, causing rumours of an ancient curse. Museum curators had no explanation as to why this happened.

But Gosling was able to provide an explanation, after he placed a three-axis sensor underneath the display case to track vibrations over an entire day.

He found that noise vibrations were loudest at 6pm and then tapered off, but began again in a daily cycle.  Vibrations from the noise propelled the statue’s movements.

“The statue was rotating due to vibrations entering the display case.  We installed an accelerometer and found that vibrations from both road traffic and footfall within the museum were the cause,” Gosling told Reuters news agency.

He added, “The vibration is a combination of multiple sources so there’s buses outside on the busy road, there’s footfall activity. And it’s all of those things combined.”

Gosling discovered a lump at the base of the statue made it more effective at picking up vibrations than other statues with flat bases.

The statue attracted attention from press all over the world when curators at the Museum first revealed that it was rotating.

The 25 cm statue was donated to the museum 80 years ago.  Its portrays an Egyptian man making an offering to Osisris, god of the underworld.

Gosling undertook this investigation as part of a ITV series Mystery Map which aims to solve mysteries.


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