As a research institution, the DAI is directly subordinate to the Foreign Service. The Institute, which has branches in four German and eleven foreign cities of the Mediterranean region and of the Near and Middle East, has its headquarters in Berlin (departments). The work of its employees not only serves scholarly interests and the reputation of German research, but also contributes to the development of the cultural heritage of other countries, which in turn plays an important part in dialogue and exchange within the scope of the foreign cultural and educational policy of Germany.
The DAI has experienced some changes during its existence, with an especially trend-setting one involving German unification. In 1991, the archaeological research area of the Central Institute for Ancient History and Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR was joined with the DAI. This signified a substantial increase in academic potential. Scholarly relationships exist today with countries of the Mediterranean area as well as with the countries of the former Soviet Union, Asia, Africa as well as South America (projects). It is also especially gratifying now that academic relations with Iran have been revitalized after decades of stagnation and the DAI, as the only foreign Institution there, carries out archaeological excavations together with Iranian colleagues in this Middle Eastern country of cultural heritage.
The DAI generally enjoys a special reputation abroad and with its international peer group. Beneath the official diplomatic level, friendships grow and trust develops from personal encounters in joint work on the site, in the library and in academic discussion. This foundation is not created in a moment and for all time, but must be constantly reacquired and cultivated.
The energy for this is especially in demand today in dialogue with the Islamic world. The Institute, together with local scholars, performs important research work in several countries of the Near and Middle East, which contributes to the preservation and to the understanding of the cultural heritage and of the cultural identity of these peoples. In the summer of 2002, the Institute had already started excavations in Afghanistan, with the expulsion of the Taliban just a few months previously (Fig. 1: Bagh-e Babur).
How dependent archaeological research is on political situations is currently shown in the direct example of Iraq, which as the heartland of the ancient Near Eastern cultures has always occupied a key position in archaeology. After the Gulf War, the Orient Department soon reestablished contact with Iraqi archaeologists, conducted an archaeological survey with them in the western desert and began a limited degree of research of the old excavation site, Uruk, again (Fig. 2: Uruk (Warka) in Iraq).
These hopeful approaches, which above all have the sense of releasing the country from academic isolation, are being challenged again. The Institute is following the present political development in this region very carefully.
Further information on this subject can be obtained from the website of the project "Kulturerhalt des Irak".
The knowledge of the history of one's own existence as well as the nature and achievements of foreign cultures form an important foundation - even if it not the only one or one with a guarantee - for inner freedom and critical tolerance.