Atari Dump Site (Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA)


Atari, Inc. dumped ca. 800,000 video game cartridges into a specially dug cell in the Alamogordo, NM city landfill in September 1983. This action, even though it was reported in the New York Times and Alamogordo Daily News, became an urban legend stating that Atari dumped its unpopular E.T. games, rumored to be the "worst video game ever made." On April 26, 2014, the City of Alamogordo in cooperation with archaeologists and a documentary film crew, excavated the cell and recovered just over 1,300 games. The most important data from this salvage is the manifest of the excavated games, which demonstrates the breadth of material that Atari dumped. The assemblage of dumped e-waste can help us understand a contributing piece to the video game crash in the mid-1980s, to Atari corporate culture, and to disposable digital entertainment. The artifacts also demonstrate the effects of a desert biome on e-waste buried 31 years prior to excavation to a depth of 10 meters.

Cite this Record

Atari Dump Site (Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA). ( tDAR id: 459204) ; doi:10.48512/XCV8459204

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1983 to 1983 (Year of deposit by Atari, Inc.)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -105.984; min lat: 32.879 ; max long: -105.957; max lat: 32.903 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contributor(s): Bret Weber; William Caraher

Field Director(s): Richard Rothaus

Lab Director(s): Raiford Guins

Principal Investigator(s): Joe Lewandowski

Project Director(s): Andrew Reinhard

Sponsor(s): Zak Penn


Rights & Attribution: All content provided on tDAR was used by permission of all associated with the project and is hereby committed to the public domain (CC0).

Source Collections

The Strong National Museum of Play (Rochester, NY, USA)

Tularosa Basin Historical Museum (Alamogordo, NM, USA)

Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC, USA)

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation (Dearborn, Michigan, USA)

VIGAMUS - The Video Game Museum of Rome (Rome, Italy)

Resources Inside this Project (Viewing 1-3 of 3)


  1. Pre-Excavation Plans and Sketches, 1983 and 2014 (2014)
    DOCUMENT Full-Text Joe Lewandowski.

    This pre-excavation file contains the following, created/assembled by Joe Lewandowski, Tularosa Basin Historical Society: 1. 1983 color photo of the Atari deposit hand-marked in 2014 with presumed stratigraphic layers. 2. 2014 color sketch of the possible stratigraphy of the landfill cell containing the Atari deposit. 3. 1983 color photo of cement slurry being poured over the Atari deposit. 4. 1983 b/w photo of the Atari deposit. 5. 2014 satellite image from Google Earth of the Alamogordo...


  1. Atari eBay Auctions (2016)
    DATASET Mark Flaa.

    Alamogordo ran eBay auctions on 44 separate days between November 13, 2014, and August 4, 2015, each day’s listings consisting of 1–96 individual lots. Each of the auctioned games came with a metal City of Alamogordo property tag and ID number as well as a certificate of authenticity signed by the mayor, Susie Galea, and by Howard Scott Warshaw, Atari wunderkind developer and creator of the E.T. game. Despite the variable conditions of the artifacts, the games served (and still serve) as a...

  2. Manifest of Excavated Atari Games (2014)
    DATASET Joe Lewandowski.

    The table contains two headers. The lower header separates the games into either “box” (a boxed cartridge) or “cart” (a loose cartridge). There is no indication of whether boxed cartridges were either blister-packed or part of a carton of six games. The upper header lists the total number of games first, and then subdivides those into games given to Lightbox Entertainment (as per their agreement with Alamogordo), games sold by the city on eBay (see the related eBay file in this tDAR collection),...