Riddle of the Bones: Gender Revolution

  • 1

Men hunt, women gather —that's the idea of how people have lived since the Stone Age. But researchers uncover archaeological errors. Bones, grave goods from past times and new methods from forensics provide new facts and turn the traditional gender roles upside down.




50 min


Birgit Tanner & Carsten Gutschmidt


At the turn of the century, archaeologists discovered a tomb with swords, horses, bows and arrows in the Viking city of Birka. No one doubted the identity of this Viking: it was a man and a warrior. But researchers from Stockholm University recently examined the bones using DNA analysis. The result: the bones belong to a woman.

Immediately there is hail of criticism, a female Viking warrior in a pompous tomb, unimaginable. A second study was carried out with even more effort. Anthropologists, archaeologists, biologists work hand in hand and find out: it is a woman—and she was a warrior.

Scientific methods, which are also used in forensics, help researchers worldwide to gain new insights. In the Chinese province of Henan, archaeologists excavate the remains of settlements and graves. Through isotope analysis, lifestyle and eating habits of the former settlers can be reconstructed. Before the agricultural revolution, the start of agriculture and animal husbandry, there was no social difference between men and women.

In Europe, the remains of prehistoric cultures indicate that there were no gender hierarchies. The Megalithic Temples of Malta house statues of women, they are cult and fertility figures. Or the cave paintings in Altamira and Chauvet with hunting scenes from the Stone Age—many of them were painted by women.

The film investigates new discoveries worldwide, reveals scientific errors and tells the turning points that led to the disadvantage of women.

Birgit Tanner
Carsten Gutschmidt

Creative Producer 
Tuan Lam

From an idea by
Daniela Pulverer
Boris Raim

Director of Photography
Jens Boeck

Holger Fink

Sound Recordists 
Karsten Höfer
Thomas Funk

Sound Mix
Studio Mitte Audio

Felix Schneider 

Production Manager
Sebastian Johannsen
Kerstin Schönborn (ZDF)

Commissioning Editors
Ruth Omphalius (ZDF)
Peter Allenbacher (ZDF | ARTE)

Riddle of the Bones: Gender Revolution
  • „Just in diesem Moment überraschen uns die aus dem Theaterbereich stammenden jungen Regisseure Hans Block und Moritz Riesewieck mit einem erstaunlichen Dokumentarfilm, der seit Monaten Publikum und Kritik auf den wichtigsten Festivals der Welt elektrisiert. Völlig zu Recht: Es ist, als würden einem die Scheuklappen weggerissen, als sähe man das, was sich seit Jahren direkt vor unseren Augen abspielt, zum ersten Mal unverschleiert... eine fesselnde ,Doku noir' mit höchstem Anspruch...Dieser Film müsste an allen Schulen gezeigt werden.“
    Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

In co-production with

  • wdr

In collaboration with

  • arte
  • zdf

In association with

  • arte