James Skibo Obituary, Death – Dr. James Skibo, or “Jim” as he was more affectionately known around the office, was an excellent team member and the State Archaeologist for Wisconsin. The unfortunate death of Jim occurred on April 14, 2023, while he was performing a normal work-up dive in Lake Mendota in preparation for the new maritime archaeology season. His body was discovered from the lake on April 14, 2023. Jim was an experienced scuba diver who was qualified to dive to a certain depth with the appropriate gear. Jim, a well-known archaeologist in the region of the Great Lakes and beyond, will be visiting the Wisconsin Historical Society in the month of July 2021. He did an excellent job of managing the 36,000 archaeological sites in California and made significant contributions to our work, our personnel, and the expansion of archaeology in the Golden State.
He was the former director of the California State Archaeological Survey. His agency collaborated with the indigenous communities of Wisconsin and in 2021 and 2022 found two boats, the older of which dates back 1,200 years (to 800 A.D.) and the younger of which dates back 3,000 years (to 1,000 B.C.). Both of the vessels were discovered in Wisconsin. Jim was able to collaborate well with his coworkers and made an effort to learn from both his superiors and his peers. Knowing that the location of the historic canoe retrieval had more tales to tell, he was looking forward to getting back out on the river with his coworkers this spring.
Jim enjoyed his time spent collaborating with William A. Longacre on the Kalinga Ethnoarchaeological study. This study, which was one of the longest-running ethnoarchaeological investigations ever conducted and was centered on the lives of potters in the northern Luzon region of the Philippines, was one of the most significant in the field’s history. Since the year 2000, he has served as the director of the Grand Island Archaeological Research Program. In 2012, the Society for American Archaeology honored him with their Excellence in Archaeological Analysis award. We are keeping Jim, his wife Becky, and their children, Matt and Sadie, in our thoughts and prayers as they go through this terrible ordeal. If you could do something that would be helpful to the environment in Jim’s honor, his family would greatly appreciate it. Help us honor Dr. James Skibo, also known as the People’s Archaeologist, and his many accomplishments in the area of archaeology by participating in the memorial service.