Samantha L Purchase-Manchester


Department of Archaeology

Research Student

  • MA Archaeology, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan, Canada: Infectious Disease as an Indicator of Physiological Stress in the Middle Holocene Cis-Baikal.
  • BA Archaeology (High Honours), Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan, Canada.
Research interests

My research interests lie in the realm of paleopathology. I am fascinated by the expression of otitis and mastoiditis in human skeletal remains and I am working towards adapting modern clinical diagnostic practices to an archaeological need.

Otitis media and mastoiditis are under-studied, since current diagnostic methods are either destructive (e.g., sectioning) or financially and logistically limiting (e.g., transporting crania or temporal bones to hospitals for imaging).

I aim to simplify diagnosis by creating a new method using existing technology that is both portable and cost-effective. My aim is to have these obscure upper respiratory infections represented in the literature to increase our understanding of the lifeways, mortality, and morbidity of past populations.

Thesis: A Radiographic Analysis of Middle Ear Infection in Human Skeletal Remains

The aim of this project is to develop a new method of diagnosing otitis media (middle ear infection) and mastoiditis (mastoid infection) in osteological samples.

Middle ear infections are not often studied archaeologically, though they are common childhood maladies—even in the age of antibiotics (e.g., mastoiditis) (Go et al., 2000; Kuczkowski and Mikaszewski 2001)—and can have debilitating—even life-threatening—complications (Go et al., 2000; Kuczkowski and Mikaszewski 2001).

Regardless, a consistent, clinical, accessible, and non-destructive approach to studying otitis media and mastoiditis does not exist and middle ear infection has often been ignored.

Thus, this project will adapt a novel imaging system and clinical diagnostic practices to the study of middle ear infection in dry bone. It explores the use of the Aribex NOMAD Pro hand-held X-ray and Dr. Suni Plus Intraoral Digital Light Sensor as viable diagnostic tools by using them to image the mastoids of the individuals housed in the University of Sheffield osteological collection (n=+2000).

The sample is ideal for a study of middle ear infection, as it sits either side of the Industrial Revolution, an era that saw the amount of air pollution (a leading risk factor for respiratory infections) (Albalak, 1997; Brachman, 1990; de Koning et al., 1985; D’Souza, 1997; Ellegård, 1996; Headland, 1989; Lewis et al., 1995; Merritt and Pfeiffer, 2000; Pérez-Padilla et al., 1996; Wright et al., 1994) in Britain rise drastically (Kunnas et al., 2014; Pontin, 2014; Rudge, 2012).

To assess the presence of otitis media and mastoiditis, the size of each mastoid air cell system X-rayed will be calculated, as is done clinically, and compared to a known “healthy” size obtained from the literature (from individuals with no history or previous evidence of otitis media or mastoiditis) (e.g., Bayramoğlu et al., 1997; Hug, 2000; Robinson et al., 1993; Sadé, 1992; Sadé and Fuchs, 1994; Qvarnberg 1982).

Those determined to sit on either side of “healthy” will be labeled as either “at risk/infected in childhood” (small air cells) or “chronically infected” (large air cells).

The presence of middle ear infection and that of other lesions indicative of respiratory infection (sinusitis and lesions on the medial surfaces of the ribs) will be assessed demographically and in relation to the Industrial Revolution using the open-source statistical software, R.

This is the first large-scale archaeological project to explore the diagnosis of middle ear infection in-depth and an ideal opportunity to benefit from decades of medical research.

Research group


Teaching activities
  • Bones: An Introduction to Human Osteology: Instructor, Saskatoon Seniors Continued Learning (SSCL) Non-Credit Courses for Seniors Program, SSCL Inc., Saskatoon, Canada (January 11, 2018–March 8, 2018).
  • Archaeology 270-Human Evolution: Laboratory demonstrator, University of Saskatchewan, Canada (September 2017–December 2017; September 2016–December 2016; September 2013–December 2013).
  • Archaeology 470-Human Osteology: Instructor, University of Saskatchewan, Canada (September 2016–December 2016).
  • Archaeology 270-Human Evolution: Substitute instructor, University of Saskatchewan, Canada (September 2014).
  • Archaeology 112-The Human Journey, Introduction to Archaeology and Biological Anthropology: Teaching assistant, University of Saskatchewan, Canada (January 2016–May 2016).
  • Archaeology 270-Human Evolution: Teaching assistant, University of Saskatchewan, Canada (September 2015–December 2015).
  • Archaeology 470-Human Osteology: Teaching assistant, University of Saskatchewan, Canada (September 2013–December 2013; September 2011–December 2011).
  • Archaeology 116-Introduction to Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology: Teaching assistant, University of Saskatchewan, Canada (January 2012–May 2012; January 2011–May 2011).
Professional activities
  • Member of the Baikal-Hokkaido Archaeology Project
  • Member of the Paleopathology Association
  • Member of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology

Scholarships, Bursaries, Awards, and Honours

  • University of Saskatchewan Master’s Scholarship: 2013–2014.
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Master’s Scholarship: 2012–2013.
  • Northern Scientific Training Program (NSTP) Funding: 2012–2013.
  • History Travel Award: 2012–2013.
  • Dean’s List, University of Saskatchewan: 2010 and 2011.
  • Leadership Award, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan: 2010 and 2011.
  • Fr. Henry Carr Award, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan: 2012

Field Experience

  • Past Recovery Archaeological Services: Field technician, Maberly, Ontario, Canada (May 1, 2012–August 20, 2012; May 9, 2011–July 21, 2011; June 1, 2010–August 20, 2010; April 10, 2018–September 7, 2018).
  • Mortuary Archaeology Field School: Slavia Foundation and Adam Mickiewicz University (2011).
  • Iklaina Archaeological Project: University of Missouri-St. Louis (2009).