Is Punk Archaeology the Real Deal?

A collective of punk archaeologist set out to the south west to excavate a New Mexican landfill. Andrew Reinhard, the lead archaeologist for the investigation, defined punk archaeology in an interview as archeology work that embodies Punk Rock’s do-it-yourself aesthetic. The purpose of the five punk archeologists visit to Alamogordo, New Mexico is to investigate the famous myth that the gaming company Atari secretly dumped all of its unsold E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial game in the early 1980’s. Although many of the news and media outlets portrayed the main purpose of the project to find out if the games were really dumped in the New Mexican desert, this is untrue. The archaeologist already knew the games were there. The archaeologist’s purpose of the Atari investigation was actually to gain a unique look on corporate history and the end-of-lifecycle for products. This example of the Atari investigation demonstrates how punk archaeology succeeds in establishing modes of thought but only to a certain extent.

The Punk archaeology’s investigation gained national attention from media outlets such as BBC, NPR, CNN, and NBC. These outlets turned the excavation of a remote town in New Mexico into international news that attracted people, mostly game enthusiasts, to find out more about the Atari myth. During the physical digging of the landfill, the city of Alamogordo became inhabited by hundreds of curious onlookers, documentary film crews, and reporters. All this attention shows that punk archaeology is able to attract media attention towards itself, leading to a heightened curiosity to what they are investigating. But although punk archaeology can get people interested in the subject of its investigation, the actual archaeologists are not in control of the direction of the information to the public.

The media outlets are selecting the information told to the public because they are the ones attempting to sustain the viewers’ attention. The punk archaeologists in Alamogordo are more interested in the understanding of corporate history and the end-of-lifecycle for products, but that isn’t eye-popping enough to keep the national attention for very long. However, the media’s focus on, “Are the rumors true? Have we found the mythical and secret dumping grounds of Atari?!?!” grabs the viewers’ attention and does not let it go. So even though the punk archaeologist can gain the initial intention with their unique investigations, the media outlets run with the projects and can shift its focus to fit the public’s desire and short attention spans.

Punk archaeology does effectively establish modes of thought, although the focuses of those thoughts are not always displayed to the general public by the major media outlets. The media side of punk archaeology does positively contribute by drawing attention to the project. And once media outlets peak the curiosity of a viewer, the viewer is now aware of the project’s existence and can then research the published work from the actual archaeologists.

Link to Reinhard Interview:

Leave a Reply