Gold-digging ants

thompson at thompson at
Wed Nov 27 13:24:31 UTC 1996

Those on the list who are interested in gold-digging ants might find useful
Ditte Koenig's very thorough "Das Tor zur Unterwelt: Mythologie und Kult
des Termitenhuegels in der Schriftlichen und Muendlichen Tradition Indiens"
[Wiesbaden, 1984].  Besides offering an extensive bibliography, Koenig
offers a survey of alternative theories [i.e., that these gold-digging ants
were possibly: not only marmots but also pangolins, Steppenfuechse
(corsacs), gold miners, their dogs, some tribe or other [Tibetan? Altaic?
Mongolian?], and other exotic animals].

There is an interesting ref. to Tucci: "Preliminary Report on two
scientific Expeditions in Nepal" [Rome, 1956], who says

"... just as the word pipIlika for ant as well as for the gold collected by
the ants may be derived from the Tibetan name for marmot, viz. p'yi or p'yi
bi.  Therefore Nagar may be the 'marmot place', which explains the story of
the gold digging marmots [in India taken for big ants]..." [Koenig, p. 64,

My own impression, formed from the wealth of detail offered by Koenig, is
that the recent article about Michel Peissel's researches doesn't really
settle a very complicated issue.

p.s. Koenig also offers an English summary at the end of his book.

George Thompson

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