Archaeologist’s Unveiling Memoir

Mike Wisenbaker photo

By Kyra Arena

Embark on an exhilarating journey with archeologist Mike Wisenbaker in his recently released debut book The Reticent Archaeologist Unleashed: Memoirs of James Michael Wisenbaker. This compelling book follows Wisenbaker throughout his career— spanning from his roots as a trained anthropologist and historian, to a Floridian archaeologist, and an underwater cave explorer!

The Reticent Archaeologist Unleashed follows the life of a nonacademic archaeologist as he navigates the unpredictable world. The narrative unfolds from his modest beginnings, taking unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Wisenbaker holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Art in anthropology from Florida State University, where he was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. Reflecting on his academic journey, he shared that “pursuing anthropology in college led me to have a much broader and deeper worldview about the present and the past of humans and the environments in which they live.”

Wisenbaker claims that his membership in Phi Beta Kappa has been a happy reminder of his life-long dedication to his passions: “My liberal arts background enabled me to have a much broader and diverse perspective of life, both past and present,” he said, emphasizing its pivotal role in shaping him as an archaeologist and individual.

But why a memoir? It was actually the Covid-19 pandemic that influenced Wisenbaker. “It brought home that we’re not immortal,” he said solemnly. He contemplated writing one before the pandemic, but often found himself distracted. When he finally sat down to write one, he claimed it “demanded much persistence and grit often stoked by the aid of family or friends.”

During his career, Wisenbaker spent more than two decades with the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and represented the Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources on the Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever program. He evaluated the potential for significant archaeological and historical sites within proposed projects being assessed by the State of Florida. His enduring commitment to Florida’s conservation efforts stems from its excellence “in its purchases of both fee-simple and conservation easements of public lands,” he stated.

Impressively, Wisenbaker also was involved in the Woodville Karst Plain Project as a publicist and historian for two decades. He described working with this project as highly rewarding, with highlights including documenting the exploration that linked the underwater cave systems Turner Sink with Wakulla Spring in July 2007.

Today, Wisenbaker is enjoying his time as a freelance naturalist. “I continue reading, researching, and writing about subjects that interest me,” he shared, “and, whenever applicable, I use my photography skills to document and supplement these endeavors.”

Through Wisenbaker’s memoir, readers embark on a journey that displays the transformative impact that an individual’s unwavering dedication can have on the landscape of conservation and historical understanding.

“His recounting of the glory days of Florida land and water conservation under the vaunted, and at one time well-funded, Florida Forever program is immensely enjoyable not only to those of us who were there, but will provide insights to the public of how and why conservation gets done,” his friend and former colleague, Richard Hilsenbeck said about The Reticent Archaeologist. “Mike is a superb chronicler of his life, times and human nature, and his book is a joy to explore and relish.”

Wisenbaker’s life and work are a testament to the impact one individual’s passion can have on the world. His memoir stands as a captivating chronicle of a life well-lived and a career dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of our shared human history.

Kyra Arena is a graduate student studying curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut, where she also obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English and Bachelor of Science in English Education. She was proudly inducted into Phi Beta Kappa there in May 2023. The University of Connecticut is home to the Epsilon of Connecticut chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.