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The Institute of Classical Archaeology – a brief history

The Institute has existed ever since Freie Universität Berlin was founded, in the 1948/49 winter semester. Like many students and professors present for the establishment of the new university, the first representative of classical archaeology as a subject, Friedrich-Wilhelm Goethert (1907–1978), also came from the former Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität. The chair he first held then went to Adolf Borbein, who developed the core areas of research at the Institute – Greek sculpture and the history of science – and led the Institute to become an important hub of classical archaeology in the German academic landscape.

In the 1960s, the Institute received a second professorship, and in 1986, a professorship of classical archaeology with a focus on the history of ancient building was added, under Wolfram Hoepfner. Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer, the former director of the Berlin Antikenmuseum (Museum of Antiquities), served simultaneously as one of the three regular professors; today, Director Andreas Scholl is an adjunct professor at Freie Universität and is actively involved in teaching. In addition to the Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) has also become an important cooperation partner. The relationship dates back to former president Helmut Kyrieleis, who held an adjunct professorship here; today, General Secretary Ortwin Dally regularly teaches at the Institute. But other colleagues from both institutions (including the foreign departments of the DAI) also regularly enrich the range of courses offered by the Institute and supervise students during internships at excavation sites and museums. All of these offerings and opportunities allow students to obtain an outstanding education across all of the disciplines and issues included in the field of classical archaeology. Specific areas of emphasis are, of course, defined by current professorships: Friederike Fless represents the archaeology of marginal zones in particular measure, and most especially the Black Sea area, but also upholds the Institute’s traditional focus on the history of ancient building, for instance, with projects such as surveying the city wall of Messene, Greece. Another member, Johanna Fabricius, has been at Freie Universität since the 2006/2007 winter semester. Like her colleagues, she also continues longstanding traditions at the Institute with the focus of her academic work, Greek archaeology. A completely new area of emphasis has been added beginning as of the 2009 summer semester: Silvia Polla represents the field of computational archaeology in her teaching and research activities.

The major stages in the history of the Institute also include the opening of the Ancient Sculpture Cast Collection (Abguss-Sammlung Antiker Plastik). It has now grown to a considerable size and forms an integral component of teaching activities. Not only does the collection allow students to receive instruction right in front of the object of their study, but it also serves as the basis for regular exhibitions at which students can gain initial experience working in a museum. Student initiative is always welcome here!

Alongside its large number of plaster casts, the Institute also possesses extensive image materials – a collection of photographs was established in 1977 and has grown ever since, and the slide collection has been expanding continuously. About a year ago, the digital slide collection opened for the use of students and faculty members. Images are now accessible via a database and are available for digital reproduction in courses, lectures, and presentations.