Ayme Swartz is here for the garbage. She walks a clearing deep in the forest of Homestake Pass, large enough to fit a modern house and backyard. The clearing appears empty, except for a dilapidated shed leaning backward like an old man falling asleep during Sunday service. But on foot, with eyes to the ground, Ayme can piece together a story. Here’s a bit of tumbled green glass— a 1940s-era 7-Up bottle — and a rusted, twisted wire — the canopy of an antique baby carriage. An empty hole, indistinguishable from a prospect pit, shows to her trained eye the former site of an outhouse. And who knows what kind of exciting garbage might lurk at the bottom?
Swartz is an archaeologist on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. She focuses on underrepresented cultures, “giving a voice to the voiceless,” she says. Her job is more than a glorified garbage picker: “I can confirm what you know, I can contribute to what you know, or I can contradict what you think you know.” And contradicting is why she’s walking the woods today.
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In 2020, Swartz set out to document historical