Just east of Phoenix, perched atop the Superstition Mountain range lay the mysterious and well-preserved ruins of Circlestone. Like a crown resting atop an indomitable and unbroken mountain wilderness, this ruin forms a near perfect circle 140 feet across. Although not the showiest of ruins left behind by the ancients; the size, and location beg the questions as to who built it, and for what purpose. Circlestone is perhaps one of best links tying together those who called the Phoenix area home with an ancient knowledge base, and although it sits relatively untouched very little archaeological work has been done here. Circlestone is extremely understudied and largely ignored by academia and historians alike. Is it because of its extremely remote location that it gets so little attention, or is there something else there that when examined may challenge the official archaeological narrative? It could also simply be that many researchers honestly unaware it, as was the case when I recently spoke with two City of Phoenix Archaeologists.
Circlestone sits just northeast of the highest point in the Superstition Mountains, which is its self a clue to its purpose. If one were to make the effort of constructing a huge paleolithic structure way up in the mountains, why would they stop just 231 feet shy from the highest point in the range? The answer is because this structure is 140 feet across. The very top of Mount Mound is rocky and uneven and doesn’t provide the area needed to lay out a structure of this magnitude. Circlestone was obviously built for a very specific reason, a reason requiring a minimum size as well as a high elevation regardless of the convenience of an available water source.
The view commanded from Circlestone is very impressive indeed. Looking east from the ruins one can see the Sierra Ancha mountain range, west is Weaver’s needle and beyond that all of Phoenix. To the north lies the sacred Four Peaks, and looking south one sees the entire central Arizona basin. This 360-degree view was crucial to the purpose of this site for sure.
Nobody knows for certain who built Circlestone or when, but everyone agrees that it is OLD. Some archaeologists put it at around 2000 years old while others admit that they would only be guessing. The problem with natural unworked stone structures is that they’re almost impossible to date by using the material itself, the rocks having been gathered locally and unworked will date the same as the mountain itself and may as well be laying on the ground than stacked up where they are. The little we do know about this site comes from the building method and the few items discovered there around the site. Those being literally only a handful of fetishes, beads, and stone carvings. Note that no significant pottery was found here, or even a trash pile containing broken shards, which always accompany village sites. This reinforces the idea that Circlestone was not a residence but something else instead.
Discovery and early exploration
The first Anglos we know of to set eyes on this Circlestone were the Spanish. They made a record of it and simply moved on, most likely believing it to be an abandoned village or fortress of some kind. The next person we know of to make note of this ruin was Elisha Reavis who moved into the valley below, sometime in 1874. This valley just west of Circlestone is now known as Reavis Ranch and is one of the only perennial water sources in the entire Mountain Range. Being the only water in the area makes this little mountain valley both strategically and economically important. In 1896 Elisha died and the area passed through a few hands as the ranch was sold several times over. Cowboys for these ranches found the ruin and figured it to be an old Spanish or Mexican goat corral but otherwise didn’t pay it much mind. It wasn’t until Tom Kollenborn discovered Circlestone for himself did this site receive any significant attention at all.
The tenacity of Tom Kollenborn
Tom Kollenborn was a cowboy and guide in the Superstition range all his life. At this point in history, Tom is as much a part of the history of the Superstitions as Jacob Waltz, the Apache, or the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine. In fact, it was usually Tom Kollenborn who guided authorities into these mountains on missing person cases. From what I’ve learned speaking with his good friend James Swanson, there has never been anyone who knew these mountains better than Tom. It was 1955 that Tom first recalled hearing a rumor of a large ruin atop a mountain deep in the Superstitions, however, it would then be another eight years before he and three friends would make their way up Mount Mound and actually see it for themselves. Their first foray was relatively unscientific revealing little more than the location and general shape of the structure, that shape is a large crude circle of stone. They noted though that the rocks were (two-man rocks) that is, requiring at least two men to move and set. They also observed that the rocks were very tightly fitted together without any type of mortar.
In November 1975 Tom, Allan Blackman, and Gary Hunnington made a flyover to examine the ruin from above. This aerial perspective convinced all three of them that this was no ordinary ruin and prompted Tom to begin a serious investigation. In November of 1976 Tom mounted an expedition of eight men, and together they rode to the ruins and back in a single day, 23 miles total, but for all this work they only discovered a couple broken pottery shards. It was, however, this trip that deepened Tom’s curiosity about the ruin and pushed him harder to find answers.
The big breakthrough came in October of 1980 when Tom was contacted by Peter C. Gardiner from Warwickshire, England. Gardiner was working on a book about mysterious deaths in the Superstitions and wanted to meet with Tom for an interview. It was during this interview the topic of Circlestone came up and Gardiner, having a keen interest in astronomy as well, suggested that perhaps the ruin was an archaeoastronomical site. This was the insight Tom knew was the missing link and his research was immediately steered in that direction. January 18th, 1981 Tom, and Dave Hinchcliffe rode up to the ruins once more, only this time they brought along survey equipment, complete with tripod, metal detector, and transit. They took bearings, plotted prominent landmarks, and marked solar inclination. It was this work that would finally shed light on the purpose of this site.
Location 33.28’39.15” N 111.08’03.62” W
Elevation at exact center of circle 6038 feet
Diameter 140 feet across
Inside circumference 427.26 feet
Outside circumference 437.70 feet
Entrance 3 feet wide
Average wall width 3 feet thick
Height off existing high point of wall 5 1/2 feet
Center structure (square) 17 feet across
Spokes emanating from center 75 feet and 61 feet
Nearest water source 3.2 miles away downhill
Circlestone is a 140′ circle constructed of local but rare Troy Sandstone with walls once having stood at least six feet high. In the center of the circle is a square pit-house measuring 17′ across. This square is oriented so that the corners line up with the cardinal directions, and north is only one degree off. The purpose of this room is unknown but it was obviously at the center of the structure and quite important. Pit-houses have held many different uses, from dwellings to ceremonial structures. Seeing that there is no sign of permanent habitat at the site it is believed that the pit-house served as quarters for a shaman or perhaps the structure it’s self-served as a base for an obelisk (Egypt) or stone monument. Other ideas include the square being used as a calendar, calculator, or timepiece. Emanating out from the square pit-house are spokes or rays at N 80 E and S 23 E. The four remaining spokes are all but vanished and none of them appear to have been walls. One theory is that the spokes served as terrace walls for leveling the interior of the circle, personally I don’t think this is the case. The entire structure has sustained some damage and has partially collapsed in some places. This is not believed to have been due to vandalism but rather attributed to Bavispe earthquake of 1887, and three more recent quakes.
Like Pueblo Grande, narrow openings in the outer wall align with both summer and winter solstices. The entire site is aligned with Polaris due north. While using Mount Mound as a back sight the star on the upper lip of Ursa Major is aligned. When the two lip stars on Ursa Major are aligned, the Polaris is aligned due north of Circlestone. Constellations visible year-round from Circlestone include Polaris, Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Draco, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia. This may or may not have meant anything to these early astronomers depending on where this science came from originally. Ursa Major must have been quite important to these people as there is a petroglyph on a wall nearby depicting it alongside the sun.
It should be noted that Circlestone may not be the only observatory ruin in the area. May 27th, 1941 William Neil Smith II, an archaeologist for U of A wrote- “The ranchers of the Roger’s Canyon area mentioned large walled enclosures on the tops of high mesas in the vicinity. These they refer to as “Spanish ruins” though doubtless from their description they are of prehistoric origin. One such ruin is purported to have a large wall, nearly six feet high in places, encircling an area containing the rock outlines of many ruins. These ‘rock corrals’ (another name by which ruins are locally known) are quite numerous, several ruins of the same description having been studied in Roger’s Canyon.”
Could this mean that there are other sites perhaps much less preserved in the Superstitions still waiting to be discovered? I recall personally flying over the Superstitions with a friend of mine last year and he pointed out a circular ruin on a ridge just west of Roosevelt Lake. He assumed it to be a fortress of some kind but considering Circlestone it seems much more likely that it may have been another observatory. Come to think of it, it was only a short distance from Roosevelt Dam which was smack dab in the middle of the Tonto Basin and home to the Salado Culture. The Salados irrigated, both with canals and flood techniques. They built impressive cliff dwellings as well which can still be seen at Tonto National Monument.
Local broadcast documentary of ruins
On March 24th, 1981 KPNX aired a report on the ruin, the response was overwhelming. It was John Hudgens the reporter of this documentary who coined the name Circlestone, previously the ruin was known as Stone Circle. Prior to and in preparation for the documentary, it was Tom Kollenborn who lead the expedition/film crew to the site. Among the group was Dr. Malcolm Comeaux, Ph.D. who believed the ruins to be around 2000 years old. This would date them to around the exact time the Hohokam culture began in the Phoenix Valley. He also stated that the ruin was the largest in magnitude and pattern he had ever seen in all his travels in the Arizona backcountry.
John Hudgens had done his homework on Arizona ruins, prehistoric sites, and more importantly primitive stone circles. Hudgens saw the site and immediately agreed that it was a celestial observatory. Furthermore, he wondered if this science had come to North America perhaps from Egypt. After all, Egyptians were the masters of this craft at the time.
The Nabta Playa Calendar
In the Nubian Desert, approximately five hundred miles south of modern-day Cairo lies the Nabta Playa. This Playa, now one of the driest deserts on the planet was once a thriving savanna grassland supporting buffalo, large giraffes, antelope, and gazelle. Around the 10th millennium BC the Nubian Desert began to receive more rainfall than usual and began to form a lake and early peoples moved into the area around this time. These people were at the time more highly organized than their contemporaries in the Nile Valley. They had above and below ground stone structures, pre-planned village designs; and deep, dependable year-round wells. By the 6th Millennium BC evidence of cattle sacrifices appear, these sacrifices are associated with ancient Egypt’s Hathor cult. Hathor was worshiped as a nighttime protector in desert regions. This finding ties together the Nabta Playa with early Egyptian culture. Why do I tell you all this? Read on.
Of all the ancient archaeological sites found on the Nabta Playa, the most interesting is the Nabta Playa Calendar. Constructed around the 5th millennium BC this is one of the worlds earliest known archeoastronomical devices. According to Astrophysicist Thomas G. Brophy, the southern line of three stones inside the calendar represent the three stars of Orion’s Belt and the other three inside the circle represented the shoulders and head stars of the Orion as they appeared in the sky. These correspondences were for two dates-circa 4,800 BC and at precessional opposition- representing how the sky “moves” long term. Brophy proposes that the circle was constructed and used circa the later date, and the dual date representation was a conceptual representation of the motion of the sky over a precession cycle. Near the calendar circle, which is made of smaller stones, there are alignments of large megalithic stones. The southerly lines aligning to the same stars as represented in the calendar circle, circa 6270 BC. The calendar circle correlation with Orion’s belt occurred between 6400 BC and 4900 BC, matching radio-carbon dating of campfires around the circle. WOW.
What strikes me is the almost exact likeness of this site with Circlestone here in Arizona. And whats more is the connection once again to an early Egyptian culture. Below are a few more sites from around the world, and although they all serve similar functions as Circlestone none of them come close to the almost exact likeness as does the Nabta Playa Calendar, and that likeness coming from Ancient Egypt.
Discovered in 1991, excavated in 2002, made public in 2003, and opened for visitors Dec 2005 the Goseck circle is located in Goseck Germany. This may be the oldest and best known of the circular enclosures associated with the Central European Neolithic period and may be one of the oldest solar observatories in the world 246 feet across, and two palisade rings containing gates aligning with sunrise an sunset on the solstice days. Dated approximately 49th century BC, and used for approximately 200 years. Scientists agree that Goseck circle was used for observation of the course of the sun in the course of the solar year. When coupled with calendar calculations, it allowed coordinating an easily judged lunar calendar with the more demanding measurements of ta solar calendar.
Mnajdra is a megalithic temple complex found on the southern coast of the Mediterranean island of Malta and is part of the larger megalithic complex. The Temples of Malta were constructed around the 4th millennium BC and are among the most ancient religious sites on earth. The wold Heritage Sites committee has called this a “unique architectural masterpiece” and in 1992 UNESCO recognized the Mnajdra complex and four other Maltese megalithic structures as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Mnajdra was constructed in a cloverleaf plan and consists of three conjoined but not connected temples. The lowest temple is astronomically aligned and was used as an astronomical observation site. On the vernal and autumnal equinox, sunlight passes through the main doorway and lights up the major axis. On the solstice, sunlight illuminates the edges of the megaliths to the left and right of this doorway. Items found at the site indicate that site was used for religious purposes, animal sacrifices, and maybe healing ceremonies.
At this point, it is obvious that Circlestone is a celestial instrument of some kind. Amazing is the fact that it was built in the deadliest mountain range in all of Arizona. But whats more amazing is that it was built at the time that it was. How did the native people in the southwest, people without the wheel, a written language or math come to possess this kind of instrumentation? Are we to believe that they constructed this site, lining it up within one degree of north without the aid of any type of math? Once again, if you have read other articles on this site you will know that I propose an Egyptian connection to the peoples of the southwestern United States. I think Circlestone furthers this argument, and in my research, I have realized that I am not the first to make this connection either.
There is something else as well that makes me think of Egypt. At the site was discovered a smoothly carved fetish measuring 2.5 x 1.5 inches. It is the carving of a beetle on one side and a sunburst on the other. It was found about twenty-five feet outside of Circlestone and had apparently washed down from the site. The Scarab was a sacred symbol of the Egyptians and we know that they were a sun-worshipping culture.
Could Circlestone be just one of many sites that dot the deserts of the southwest? I say yes. From Chaco Canyon to Tuscon there are solstice markers, shadow spirals, and petroglyphs of Venus and constellations. To the native peoples of the southwest, the heavens, without a doubt were as much a part of their lives as the ground on which they walked. You will be hard-pressed to find ancient peoples here who did not believe that the Gods themselves came down and visited them on a regular basis.