Monday, June 4, 2012

Circlestone: A Beginning

May 28, 2012 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There is an ancient archaeological site locate in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The site consists of a large
circular structure with a pit or ceremonial house located in the center. This large circle of stones is located at latitude N 33 28” 35” and longitude W 111 08’ 09”. The legal description of this large circle of stone is NW ¼, NW ¼, SE ¼, SEC 33, R12E, T2N, Superstition Wilderness Area, Tonto National Forest, Maricopa County, Arizona.

Circlestone is not a “perfect” circle – the diameter measures 133 feet at most points around it’s circumference. The circumference of the structure is 427.36 feet along the inside perimeter of the wall, while the outside measurements are 437.0 feet. The entrance is three-foot wide and is oriented S 30 Degrees E. A small structure can be found in the center of Circlestone that measures seventeen feet on a side forming a perfect square.

The site is located at 6,010 feet above sea level. The panorama from Circlestone is awesome. The structure lies immediately northeast of Mound Mountain (elevation 6,262 feet) some 3,500 feet. Few mountainous points rise higher than Circlestone within the wilderness area. Fieldwork at Circlestone has been impossible because of the status of the region. Circlestone lies within the Superstition Wilderness Area. This region has been closed to all archaeological excavations and explorations. The only type of fieldwork that can be undertaken at Circlestone is surface analysis and measurements. It is a matter of record that early cowboy pothunters visited this area searching for artifacts. According to several old timers, few artifacts were ever removed from Circlestone. The structure sits on a Quartzsite outcrop that inhibits any real excavation. Near the north end of the site, the soil is a sandy-loam mixture that might be some 18 – 24 inches in depth. Thirty inches of topsoil in the area would ne an absolute maximum. An assortment of shards, found on the surface, have been examined at the site. Many of these shards are indicative of the Salado and  Hohokam cultures, according to archaeologist. Some pottery shards and fetishes indicate the Hohokam may have been dominant in the area.

Numerous fetishes have been found on the surface around Circlestone. Most of these fetishes were found to the north of the main structure. Very few artifacts have been found within the structure itself. This could mean the artifacts were eroded down the slopes away from the center of the ruin or maybe they have been pickup by early visitors to the site and later discarded. Several turquoise beads have been found around the perimeter of Circlestone. For the most part, Circlestone does not have an abundance of artifacts or clues as to what the site may have been used for in the past.

Shards have been found that would indicate the region could have occupied at some time by passing nomadic  travelers. The structure has some similarities that are indicative of the Anasazi stonework from the Colorado Plateau area. The structure itself appears somewhat like Anasazi stone work, however, it lacks the uniform consistency of their work. The structure does not have the fine detailed stonework of the Chacoan culture or sites such as Mesa Verde. The work at Circlestone is far more primitive when compared to Anasazi stonework. There is no masonry-type work at Circlestone.

The immensity of Circlestone indicates a well-organized culture built the structure under the direction of a powerful shaman or chieftain. If you examine Circlestone closely, at first, the structure appears or suggests a mysterious origin, however, if you look around the surrounding hills you will find similar rock work. It is agreed nothing was built of the magnitude of Circlestone for it’s size or with the material used in the area. Some archaeologist have suggested Circlestone may have been a trading center, but its location being so far from water would have discouraged this type of use. The most likely use of Circlestone would have been as some type of religious structure. The site may have served as a primitive kiva-type structure. The Chacoan kivas, such as Casa Rinconada, are similar in size, but not in design. The Casa Rinconada kiva was built around 1100 A.D.

If one wants to speculate, it wouldn’t be to difficult to believe the Anasazi, Hopi or other similar groups may have used Circlestone in some capacity. Let’s speculate for just a moment. We will presume Circlestone was built about 700 A.D. If this were true, then Circlestone could have easily been on the path of the roaming people who came up from central Mexico. The circular structure is found throughout Mexico and Central America and is commonly linked to religious practices of these ancient people. The Hopi, who are part of the Colorado Plateau group, wandered the Southwest prior to settling down where they are today on Second Mesa. Their priest claims they were in the Tonto Basin area immediately east of Circlestone, about eight air miles away. Some Hopi priests claim their people emerged from the Earth near Tonto Basin. Again, this is all speculation.

We will not solve the puzzling questions that surround the origin and use of Circlestone in this century, but someday, with more sophisticated research tools, archaeologist will learn more secrets about mysteries that surround this unique structure deep in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

For the present the Wilderness Area protects the archaeological resources of this region.