These are some of the enduring questions comedian and actor Ardal O’Hanlon grapples with in a new archaeological TV show next week.
In Ardal O’Hanlon - Tomb Raider on RTÉ1 on Thursday at 10.15pm, he explores a 1930s quest to discover the answers to riddles buried deep in our past, to find the origins of the earliest Irish men and women on the island of Ireland using archaeology.
But further beneath the surface, Ardal also discovers how, both in Northern Ireland and what was then called the Irish Free State, archaeology was being used as an important tool for nation-building, as both of the states forged new identities in the wake of Partition, which at the time was just a decade old.
Speaking to world-renowned experts, including Professor Diarmaid Ferriter, Dr Mairéad Carew and Dr Lara Cassidy, Ardal unravels a forgotten time period, when a team of Americans from Harvard University, a Nazi archaeologist from Austria, and a Welsh geography Professor based in Belfast, dug up ancient sites across the country.
Through Ardal’s journey, the film rediscovers this strange 1930s tale, but also ends up answering some of the comedian ’s deepest questions about the Celts, and ultimately, what it means to be Irish.