Oasis in Time: The Power of the Pharaohs

What is a Pharaoh?

The death mask of King Tutankhamun, a prominent pharaoh.

The death mask of King Tutankhamun, a prominent pharaoh.

The word pharaoh translates to “great house” and originally referred to the royal palace in ancient Egypt. Over time, the meaning of the word changed to refer to the king of Egypt. The majority of people to hold this title were male, but some notable females eventually gained this position. Some female pharaohs included Hatshepsut and Cleopatra. After Hatshepsut’s death, many of her monuments and statues were defaced. She usurped the throne from her stepson Tuthmosis. He is believed to have been the cause of the attempted erasure of Hatshepsut’s name from history.

Responsibilities of a Pharaoh

Egyptian citizens believed that the pharaoh acted as a mediator between the gods and the humans. Following the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh Menes, the pharaoh become the ruler of both kingdoms. A pharaoh was considered a preserver of the god-given order, known as maat. As such, the pharaoh was responsible for land-use in Egypt. Wars were waged at the pharaoh’s command and new laws were introduced by them. The pharaoh ensured citizens followed the Egyptian religion and were loyal to the pharaoh as the representative of the gods. The role of meting out justice was attributed to the pharaoh. Their chief assistant was known as the vizier and the pharaoh would delegate some responsibilities to the individual holding this title. The pharaoh was considered an absolute ruler who was connected to the Egyptian gods.

Afterlife of a Pharaoh

The Pharaohs, considered sacred, were buried in tombs along with their riches. Their belongings were buried with them because it was believed that any belongings buried with a person would be brought with them to the afterlife. It was also a common belief that after a Pharaoh passed they became divine. The expensive process of mummification was performed on pharaohs and some of the Egyptian elite and nobles. Mummification of an individual took seventy days to perform. Various spiritual rituals and prayers were performed and recited throughout the mummification process. The brain was removed through the nose using an unnamed hooked instrument. However, it is made of forms of palm and bamboo, as a result of the expensive cost of metals. Other organs were removed through the abdomen after an incision was made in the left side of the deceased individual’s abdomen. These organs were placed in canopic jars, containers made of limestone or pottery that were used to preserve the organs for the afterlife. Great care was taken in decorating canopic jars and they often included symbols of Egyptian gods and religion. The only organ that remained in the body was the heart, as it was believed to be the centre of an individual. Ancient Egyptians also thought the soul of an individual resided in their heart. As such, the heart was kept in the body as it was needed to progress to the afterlife.

The tomb would be decorated with artwork and furnished in preparation for the afterlife. Interestingly, this artwork was supposed to come to life in the afterlife. For example, paintings of food would turn into actual food required for survival in the afterlife. The afterlife was so important in Ancient Egyptian culture because they valued life so greatly that they longed for it to continue after life on earth. As such, making proper preparations to ensure an individual made it to the afterlife was essential and done in advance of the individual’s death.

If you are interested in learning more about the mummification process and pharaohs, please visit this Smithsonian Institute article: https://www.si.edu/spotlight/ancient-egypt/mummies


Liam Konrad

Liam is an avid reader, with a thirst for knowledge, and a desire to learn from our past. He is often found exploring other worlds during his time spent reading. He is currently a second-year student in the Professional Writing.

Unearth the Capsule: Bottoms Up, Bootleggers Down

The Roaring Twenties were in full swing- Flappers, jazz, the glitz and glam that came with the economic growth for America at the time; the entire decade appeared to be one continuous celebration. While it might have been a party, one popular ingredient was absent:

The booze. 

At least, the law-abiding parties lacked the drinks. 

Alongside the grand cultural, social and political changes of the Jazz Age, Prohibition had also come into effect. Prohibition was the ban against drinking alcohol with the aim to reduce crime and improve the health of Americans, however, there is lesser known information. The Twenties not only saw the rise of organised crime, but the deathly decline of drinkers due to the government’s involvement of increasing the harmful chemicals found within industrial alcohol.

After an internet hoax had spread false information about the government setting out to purposefully kill illegal drinkers by poisoning their stash, I was curious to see how this rumour started out. 

Surprisingly, the fact isn’t too far from the fiction.

The U.S. Government’s hopes started to fall when they realised people continued to get access to their much-wanted, yet banned drinks. Most of the crowds obtained illegally transported alcohol operated by the Mob, or by attempting to brew their own. Additionally, they could also access alcohol from non-traditional sources.

Prohibition saw the ban of manufacturing, selling, and transportation of drinking alcohol. However, alcohol wasn’t simply used just for sipping on at parties with Gatsby. Industrial alcohol was often found in other products, like perfumes. After discovering that by distilling industrial alcohol people and bootleggers were making it drinkable and sellable, the American government came out with a plan in 1926 to increase the toxicity of industrial alcohol they knew people were drinking by adding a cocktail of chemicals, including methanol. They thought that the consumption of alcohol would decrease because people would decide against drinking it since the taste was revolting and the toxins unremovable.

People did not.

To add some context, 2-8 ounces of methanol can be lethal to its drinkers. Unlike the industrial alcohol bootleggers and consumers had been previously distilling, the added toxins were much harder to be removed from the industrial alcohols. The outcome? Consequently, due to all of the deaths, vision loss, and other health declines that came with those ingesting the tampered products, the outcome was the complete opposite of the governments Prohibition plan of having a “healthier” America. Christmas of 1926 reportedly saw 23 deaths and others having vision loss due to the methanol intake. 

One fact that is up for an ol’ fashioned bar debate is agreeing on the total number of deaths. While some estimate the number of fatalities was around 10,000 (this number coming from the internet hoax), others have stated that that statistic is lower.

Regardless of the number, many were negatively affected and continued to be by their bottles until the end of Prohibition in 1933. 

As the sun sets on Prohibition, the (tequila) sun rises on answered questions. No, the government did not organize the deaths of citizens by knowingly poisoning their alcohol. That being said, yes, the government was in charge of adding increased chemicals to the legal, industrial alcohols in order to discourage the illegal intake and distilling. Marking almost 100 years since Prohibition, I’ll raise my glass high and cheers to hopefully never having to see something like that again in this day and age. 



Marie-Chantal Chamberland

Marie-Chantal/Marie/M-C is a reader, writer, Marvel fan, and is currently studying Professional Writing. Some of her interests include traveling, skating. learning about the past, baking, and hanging out with her dog.

English As We Know It: The Diary Of A Rune Atic

Runes have been around since the early 5th century. Many believe them to be tools that can be used to see the future. They can be made from glass, wood or stone. The people most famous for drawing them, the Vikings and other Germanic tribes would draw them on stones and keep them in pouches or boxes. The Vikings used to carve them on big rocks to mark the lives of great men and women. Here’s an example of a rune alphabet:


Medieval sources mention seeing “victory runes” being carved on swords. The Vikings used runes as letters. They would use them to mark things of importance and on the tombstones of those they deemed heroes. Other places that they would carve ruins are :

  • Cliff walls, rocks, and buildings as graffiti

  • Art and craft objects put there by the gold and silversmiths, wood carvers, etc. who made them

  • Trade markers, noting the name of the owner of a pile of trade goods

  • Magical charms and talismans

  • Religious objects

Runes were everywhere in those days. Primarily, because people believed they held great power, partly because they believed that these symbols and letters would bring them strength.

But the question I’m most curious about is this: Where did they come from?

Many rune studiers believe that they came from the Mediterranean people of the first century CE, who lived to the south of the Germanic tribes. I believe that they originated from the Vikings since it is believed that Odin himself created the runic alphabet.

The earliest known runes used by these Norse men and women were used as early as 200 A.D. The “Elder Futhark” as they refer to their runic alphabet is usually read from right to left. The alphabet is phonetic, with each letter representing a sound, therefore they do not need double consonants. 

They have been translated this way, as it is the closest to Ancient Norse.

After - Sithar

Believe - Trua

Death - Dauthi

Dragon - Dreki

Light - Ljos

The runes were also used for ritual functions, divination and to invoke higher powers that could affect the life and happiness of the tribe. They had runes for weather, fertility, love, and health as well as many others like life and death. The Vikings would carve them on their drinking cups, javelins, amulets, on the lintel of the houses and at the bow of the Viking ships. When doing the research I was shocked to learn that a majority of these “rune masters” were women. These masters would wear striking clothes so they could be easily recognized as shamans in tribal circles. In the later Anglo - Saxon period, the traditional Germanic Futhark script consisted of twenty-four runes. They divided this alphabet into three "families" of eight runes.  They thought that the numbers three and eight had special magical powers. They named the three groups (aettir) after the Nordic gods Frey, Hagal, and Tyr. 

The Vikings thought that these runes were potent symbols that would solidify their ideas and alter their reality. The Vikings believed that the words they wrote had power and that they should use them wisely. In conclusion, runes helped them to find a sense of purpose and strength in themselves that they may not have been able to find otherwise.

Dates You Should Know: Nintendo is Founded

A man who needs no introduction, pictured with some guy in green.

A man who needs no introduction, pictured with some guy in green.

Today, A Matter of Time is coming directly to you…

… with a Date You Should Know: September 23, 1889.

130 Years Young

Nintendo has been many things to many people.

The company has, at various times, owned taxis and a baseball team. It’s marketed instant rice and vacuum cleaners. It’s been the litigant in a court case over the word “Kong”. It’s about to open a theme park. To most people, though, Nintendo is synonymous with video games. Nintendo’s games aren’t just successful, they’re some of the most successful franchises of all time, and have brought us games considered some of the best ever. The history of Nintendo is a long and storied one, and it’s one that most people wouldn’t expect began in 1889. No, that’s not a typo.

This September saw the world’s most famous video game company turn a venerable 130.

“But, Joel,” you say, “That can’t possibly be right. There were no video games in 1889!”

And that’s true. Not only is the world’s most famous video game company a century old, it wasn’t even a video game company for most of that time. Nintendo didn’t start making video games until the 1970s, and the company was almost exactly a century old when it introduced the world to Mario (then called “Jumpman”) with the release of Donkey Kong in 1981. For the first seven decades of its existence, Nintendo was a playing card company.

Originally founded in Kyoto by an aspiring businessman named Fusajiro Yamauchi, Nintendo’s humble origins saw it producing handmade playing cards, specifically the cards for a Japanese game called Hanafuda. Nintendo’s primary business hasn’t been playing cards since the 1960s, but the Japanese branch of Nintendo has never stopped making playing cards and, in honour of the company’s early history, sponsors a card tournament called the Nintendo Cup.

A poster from the Early Days of Nintendo, showing the Company’s catalogue of Playing Cards.

A poster from the Early Days of Nintendo, showing the Company’s catalogue of Playing Cards.

Leave Luck to Heaven

The most common translation for Nintendo’s name is something along the lines of “leave luck to Heaven”. Now, there’s a lot of luck to be had in 130 years, both good and bad. Nintendo has had its share of both.

Nintendo had early success as a card company, introducing Western-style playing cards and mass-produced plastic cards to Japan. From there, Nintendo popularised card games among families and children, thanks to obtaining the rights to put Disney characters on its cards. The company started slumping in the 1960s, leading to wide-ranging attempts to expand the company’s range of products. Most failed (the aforementioned instant rice and vacuum cleaners), but the company found major successes when it began developing toys and games, like the instantly-popular Ultra Hand. The company introduced its first video games in the 1970s. The 1970s saw the introduction of arcade games, home systems like the Color TV-Games consoles (featuring an off-brand version of Pong) and a portable device that combined simple games with the functionality of a watch, the aptly-named Game & Watch.

The 1980s were particularly good for Nintendo. This was the decade that saw the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System, making Nintendo a household name; the first appearances of iconic Nintendo characters like the Mario Brothers and Link; and the foundation of Nintendo of America, which has become the face of the company in the English-speaking world. Since then, Nintendo has become a trillion-yen company and the most recognisable name in video games.

Not bad for a company that started out making cards by hand.

Read More Here:




Joel Balkovec

Joel Balkovec has an MA in Classics, so he knows a thing or two about history. When he’s not professionally writing at Algonquin, he’s writing family-friendly Fantasy stories at home as J.B. Norman. Visit his website at www.realmgard.com

Beyond the Peculiar Rituals: Living with Their Dead, The Toraja People of Indonesia

Living with Their Dead, The Toraja People of Indonesia


National Geographic explores how Torajan corpses remain part of the family.


GRAPHIC VIDEO: Viewer discretion is advised

The world is full of peculiar and unique rituals stemming from cultural beliefs and traditions, some of which are still practiced today. Although at times they can be hard to fathom, it’s just common practice to the Toraja people and many need to abide by it. A taboo matter to some, can be a heroic or religious practice to others.

One such ritual, or should I say ‘worldly experience’, is the Indonesian practice of living with their dead loved ones and fellow villagers. The Toraja have their loved ones exhumed, mummified, adorned with special garments and have them live side by side with them. The dead are treated as if they are still alive, until their family members are able to provide them with costly and lavish funerals.

To the Toraja people, death is the main concern and funerals take priority over everything else. It can take weeks or years after a person’s death before they are buried, and during that time they are given food and water regularly and are regarded as part of their family’s daily life. The deceased is not regarded as dead but referred to as ‘makula’, an ailing person.

The funeral, is called Rambu Solo, and can take up to days or weeks, involves the entire village and usually happens in August or September each year. The festivities include prayers, dancing, singing, mourning, sacrifice of water buffalo(s) and cockfights. And could range in cost from $50,000 to as much as $500,000.

On the funeral day, the body is brought to its final resting place and the deceased is buried in a tomb carved into a cliff, as high as 100 feet above the ground. One to three years after the burial, the family go to the grave of their loved one and tidy up the mummified body and the tomb. And for those who have been dead for a decade or longer, the bodies are removed from their crypts, cleaned of any insects, changed into a clean set of clothes and the whole body is wiped, sprayed and put back into their tombs.

Family tradition and generations are always connected and remembered thanks to the Toraja people’s idea of death and their great regard for it.

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Dekra Abdo

A self-confessed word-worm. My love for reading, writing and world cultures has taken me to many travel destinations. Let me hear your comments on my blog.

Introducing A Matter of Time

Welcome to A Matter of Time, Algonquin College’s premier history blog. Here, the team members will introduce themselves and the blog topics they’ve decided to share with you.

Dates You Should Know

Most history teachers will tell you that dates don’t matter. They’re wrong. My name is Joel, and I’m here to share important dates with you from across history. Come with me, learn some dates, impress your friends and feel smug when you know the answer on Jeopardy.

Beyond the Peculiar Rituals

My name is Dekra and I will take you into a journey about the rituals of our ancient ancestors. Cultural beliefs and rituals give us an insight into the people and societies that exist around the world. By understanding what seems strange at first, we might just grow and appreciate everyone around us.

Unearth the Capsule

Scandals, lies, events that seemed to have lost their way into the textbooks: we’re talking about it all here. My name is Marie-Chantal and I’m here to discuss different incidents that left humanity wondering what, why and how this happened. It’s safe to say that it is always A Matter of Time before the truth comes out.

English as We Know it

My name is Carissa and my topic is going to be language, literature and poetry. As a child, I was always fascinated with reading poetry. Dive in with me as I explore runes, the poetry of the great playwrights and plays as well as defining the evolution of literature and discovering the history of the library.

An Oasis in Time

My name is Liam. My love of reading introduced me to historical non-fiction and historical fiction, which in turn inspired my curiosity about history. My blog posts will discuss Egyptian history, the Pharaohs, their significance and their world.

Thank you joining us as we travel across time and space. We hope you enjoy the journey.