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)

Resource Inside this Project (Viewing 1-1 of 1)

There is 1 Document within this Project [remove this filter]


  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...