Prehistoric monuments, such as stone circles, megaliths or menhirs (standing stones) and quoits, provide interesting features in the landscape of the British Isles. The best known examples (Stonehenge and Avebury) are familiar to most, but they are not alone – more than 1300 stone circles have been recorded in the British Isles and more than 10000 standing stones.
The monuments have their origin in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages (broadly between 4000 and 1800 BCE). Precise dating is notoriously difficult because they do not respond well to carbon dating techniques and there is an absence of artefacts that might be used for guidance. Similarly there is doubt about their purpose(s). Specialists in many disciplines, but with a shared interest – eg., geologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, astronomers, antiquarians, experts in folklore and legends etc – now pool their knowledge to shed light on a distant age.
Not surprisingly, over the centuries these intriguing phenomena have often been explained through legend and folklore. In the case of the Merry Maidens stone circle the nineteen stones were once innocent girls who were encouraged to dance on the Sabbath by two evil spirits in the guise of pipers. A sudden bolt of lightening from an otherwise clear blue sky transformed the girls and the pipers into their present state.
The image below is one of the pipers.