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Wisconsin's State Archaeologist Dr. James Skibo has died

Dr. James Skibo assists in the recovery of an ancient canoe.
Wisconsin Historical Society
Dr. James Skibo assists in the recovery of an ancient canoe.

Wisconsin's State Archaeologist, Dr. James Skibo, has passed away. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, on April 14, he went missing during a routine dive preparing for the maritime archaeology season and later died at the hospital.

Dr. Skibo worked in coordination with Wisconsin’s Native Nations on the historic recovery of two canoes with great archaeological significance to the state and its tribal communities.

In 2021 Wisconsin Historical Society maritime archaeologist Tamara Thomsen discovered a 1,200 year old dug-out canoe in Lake Mendota.

About a year later, a 3,000 year old canoe was also discovered. Dr. Skibo assisted in both recoveries.

Dr. Skibo also played a role in getting a historic marker recognizing Native American burial mounds placed on the Wisconsin State Fair grounds.

The Wisconsin Historical Society said in a Facebook post about Dr. Skibo, "Jim was a champion, leader and mentor for his team, yet always eager to learn from those around him. He was looking forward to getting back in the water with his colleagues this spring to further explore the site of the historic canoe recoveries, as he knew there are many stories yet to be shared.

Jim’s passion and enthusiasm reverberated through the halls of our organization and throughout the state. An explorer at heart, Jim traveled Wisconsin on a mission to democratize archaeology, and he loved to tell the stories of the past through the lens of the archaeological record left behind. He truly was the 'People’s Archaeologist,' as he often referred to himself."

Dr. Skibo is survived by his wife and two children.

Becky Mortensen is WUWM's executive producer of Lake Effect.
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