Archaeological finds challenge historical gender roles in Terra X documentary ‘Riddle of the Bones: Gender Revolution’
Shooting start of ZDF’s latest ‘Terra X’ documentary
Mainz, May 21st, 2019
‘Riddle of the Bones: Gender Revolution’ (52’), a new ‘Terra X’ documentary on historical gender roles, takes a look at archaeological research results that challenge what is still perceived as the traditional roles of men and women. The ‘Terra X’ documentary from Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion is currently being shot on location in China, Germany, France, Great Britain and Sweden. The film is expected to be shown on ZDF in the spring of 2020; ZDF Enterprises is responsible for worldwide distribution.
New palaeogenetic or criminalistic methods make it possible to examine archaeological finds without prejudice. A skeleton from a grave in the Viking stronghold of Birka, for example, which was examined using DNA screening in 2017, turned out to be female, although the scientists had initially identified it as male on the basis of the grave goods – a warrior’s weapons, horses and accoutrement.
The Lascaux cave paintings have also generally been attributed to male painters. Three-quarters of the coloured hand contours that Stone Age artists left on the cave walls were recently attributed to female persons by means of a forensic method.
The so-called ‘Busenwand’ (breast wall), which was retrieved from Lake Constance and whose name reflects the naturalistic three-dimensional representation of female breasts, was initially interpreted as a fertility symbol or erotic work. After years spent reconstructing the frieze, the archaeologists were obliged to give up this assumption. It actually depicts a lineage of worshipped ancestral women.
Another unexpected finding is that men and women in the early Chinese hunting and gathering communities shared their food equally, as Professor Kate Pechenkina of City University New York 2018 discovered after subjecting the bones found in 4500-year-old graves in China to isotope analysis. Many anthropologists traditionally assumed that male hunters were better fed than female gatherers. A comparison with the bones of women from the same area who lived 2000 years later but showed evidence of significant malnutrition was even more surprising. Did a sedentary way of life thus lead to a devaluation of women?
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