Gold-digging ants

Lars Martin Fosse l.m.fosse at
Tue Nov 26 20:02:25 UTC 1996

Some years ago I looked into the puzzle concerning the gold-digging ants,
and among other things collected some entological papers on Afghan ant
species. It might interest you to know that some ants make anthills out of
sand and small stones, and that they carry the bigger pieces of rubble to
the top of the anthill in order to catch and keep the warmth of the sun. On
ground with gold particles among the sand and rubble, such particles may
easily have have been put on top of the anthills. The matter has been
treated in a major zoological work on ants (don't remember the name of it
right now), that refers to Herodotus and sees this kind of behaviour as the
basis for Herodotus' story. I suspect that it is possible that stories about
gold-digging marmots and gold-digging ants have been mixed up, producing the
monster ants described by Herodotus (otherwise, one would expect the Greeks
to know the difference between a marmot and an ant). It seems obvious to me
that animals digging and throwing up soil would tell people where gold was
to be found in the ground. In other words, if marmots - or ants - bring up
small nuggets of gold, all you have to do is to go on digging! (Should
countries in economic trouble introduce ants and marmots to boost their

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

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