The village of Kaapsche Hoop about 28 kms outside Nelspruit  is just one of many places that blossomed then faded away during the gold rush of the 1850’s and 1860’s. Today it’s a tourist village, and a good place for hiking., and known for the bands of wild horses that roam around the area.

On top of a hill above the village there’s a group of standing stones that at first glance, look like Stonehenge in the United Kingdom (give or take a few stones). This site is called the Adam's Calendar by two local people who claim the site is 75,000 years old and that the rings form an ancient astronomical calendar.

Michael Tellinger, a local politician, believes the "Adam's Calendar" site was built by aliens. His partner Johan Heine says it is the oldest man-made site known on Earth.   

When pilot Heine was asked in 2003 to help search for a lost colleague, he spotted a strange arrangement of giant rocks from the air. Later he hiked to the stones and realized they were aligned to the cardinal points - north, south, east and west – of the compass as well as the equinoxes and solstices.      

Heine and Tellinger have co-authored a book and a made series of videos on the subject. They say that Adam's Calendar is an ancient accurate astronomical calendar. A central rock casts the shadow of the setting sun onto a flat calendar stone next to it. Pictures taken from the air could support the hypothesis. Is it possible that these stones are indeed a functional, mostly intact, monolithic stone calendar?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

There is no concrete evidence to support these claims and many people say the structures are the remains of 16th century cattle kraals. According to Wikipedia:

“The Blaauboschkraal stone ruins are a heritage site  in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. The ruins are thought to be the remains of structures created by the Bokoni people who settled the region in the 16th century and who altered the landscape to increase agricultural yields in high-altitude grasslands. The stone rings were probably used as enclosures for cattle (kraals). Pseudo archaeological alternative explanations have been put forward for the Blaauboschkraal stone ruins, attributing alien and/or ancient origins”. 

And yet the stone circles don’t have any entrance points, making it unlikely they were used as traditional kraals.                                 

Adam's Calendar is a National Heritage Site, and you need a guide to explore the stones – and guess who it is? A full-on tour of the site with Michael Tellinger takes over an hour. You view the 'workshop' – a sort of quarry where the stones were worked. You ponder the Stone Altar, see the Path of Initiation that local sangomas say was used for ceremonies, view the valley created by a meteor below you and the two mounds thought to be pyramids. Tellinger says this valley is the true Cradle of Humankind. Whatever your reaction to the claims, the tour through the stones is entertaining and intriguing, and the view is marvellous. And great for local tourism too.

Tellinger tells the visitors that the ancient circular stones of Adam's Calendar are older than any other structure found on Earth, and are part of the circular ruins and ancient agricultural terraces of an ancient civilization. Today Tellinger estimates the number of stone ruins at 100,000 or possibly higher.  Some of these “stone circles” have no doors or entrances and most are connected by an expansive network of channels that he says are misinterpreted as “roads” by some historians.

Says Teller: “Adam’s Calendar predates both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza by tens of thousands of years, and its the only example of a completely functional, mostly intact, megalithic stone calendar in the world.”

Now for a bit of reality.

 Michael Tellinger has a degree in pharmacy, and spent much of his adult life as a stage actor, film technician, and musician (he's released at least 13 CDs). He started a political party. But his website names him an "international authority on the origins of humankind”.

In March 2015 Wits University published two history books supporting Wikipedia’s conclusion that the ruins are the remains of structures created by people who settled the region in the 16th century. The stone rings were probably used as enclosures for cattle.

In reply Teller wrote: “ there is no scientific evidence for these claims. It is pure speculation. While the Bakoni people may have occupied these structures in the past 300 years or so, they did not build them. The origins of the ruins are far more mysterious and are connected to the origins of humankind. The oldest man-made structure on earth is in South Africa, it is known as Adams Calendar. The site is estimated to be around 75,000 years old, as dated by rock art in the area”.

There is no evidence of a "lost civilization" in South Africa many centuries ago, a theme of schoolboy adventure books from the 70s

And yet many visitors to the site come away with feeling of mystery, that there is more to these stones than meets the eye. The area around Adam’s Calendar is rich in gold, and it is likely that  these ancient settlements are linked to gold.  Several old mine shafts have been found in the area, and one of the richest working mines in the world today, the Sheba Gold Mine, is located in Mpumalanga.  Early European explorers have found evidence of historic civilizations mining for minerals. The rich gold reefs led to a gold rush in the 1850’s.

An ancient road structure that is visible from the air for hundreds of kilometres once connected these ruined settlements and forts and continued all the way to Great Zimbabwe. This was a well-planned and evolved civilisation that were mining gold and had some means of transport.  Terraces for growing crop are spread over large areas, like the Inca settlements in Peru. This suggests that these people had a good knowledge of agriculture and planted produce extensively.

Many of the circular structures are aligned to specific geographic points including solstices and equinoxes. Exactly when they were built and who built them, as well as why they were abandoned, remain topics for debate

Like Stonehenge and the other stone circles in Europe, the Nazca lines in South America, the pyramids in Mexico and Egypt, There is mysteries about Adam’s calendar, including who built it, what their civilization was like, and how they constructed it with such precise measurements..  The origin of mankind has long been a topic of great interest, and new discoveries often result in more questions without answers. South Africa has turned up some fascinating sites – the Sterkfontein Caves, the Cradle of Humankind and extensive fossil discoveries – that point to its human history being far older than most people would imagine.