After decades of speculation and myth, Atari's fabled New Mexico landfill site – allegedly home of thousands of unsold E.T. tie-in cartridges for the Atari 2600 – has been excavated.

How untold numbers of unopened E.T. cartridges ended up in a dump in the middle of the American Southwest goes something like this: hoping to the cash in on the popularity of Steven Spielberg's 1982 film, Atari rammed a video game adaptation through production for the 2600. The game was met with a universally dismal reception from consumers and critics alike. Expectedly, the game was a huge financial flop (the developers had less than six weeks to complete the project to have it ready for the holiday season) and despite eventually going on to sell 1.5 million copies, another 2.5-3.5 million remained unsold.

Considering the game cost about $125 million to make, Atari lost a lot of money – ripples from E.T. were so catastrophic that it's often blamed for kicking off the video game industry's crash in 1983 and permanently unseating Atari from its position of power. 

Long story short, facing the disaster of so many unsold cartridges Atari allegedly took most new copies of the game, dumped them into a landfill in New Mexico and covered them with cement as if to simply blot out the fact that they ever existed.

Now would appear that the legend has come back to life, as that very landfill of lore (in Alamagordo, New Mexico) was excavated this weekend during an Xbox-sponsored event tied to a documentary on being made on the the whole E.T. saga. Incredible Hulk screenwriter Zak Penn is heading up production on the codenamed Atari: Game Over, which was planned to be made even if no cartridges were found. Other Atari cartridges were also found at the highly publicized dig, including Centipede, Space Invaders and Asteroids, whose presence might be a mystery all their own.

While the first E.T. cartridges were unearthed yesterday, there's no telling how many more – or what else - might be buried in the Alamagordo desert dump. Check back for more developments.

[Via Polygon