Ernst Förstemann

Ernst Förstemann portrait, oil on canvas by Julius Scholtz

Ernst Wilhelm Förstemann (18 September 1822 – 4 November 1906) was a German historian, mathematician, Dr. of linguistic and librarian, director of the Saxon State Library (German: Sächsische Landesbibliothek) in Dresden. He is known as a founder of onomastics and folk etymology studies in Germany, and also for his seminal contributions made in the early years of Mayanist research, towards the decipherment and understanding of calendrical elements in the pre-Columbian Maya script.[1]


He was born in Danzig. In 1865 he became chief librarian at the Royal Library (now the Saxon State Library) in Dresden, which contained the Dresden Codex.[2] He prepared an edition of the Maya manuscript as well as several treatises on it. His services in behalf of the reorganization of the library were most important. In 1894 he deciphered the Maya numbering systems.

Works (selected)


  1. Coe (1992, pp.107–108); Hammond (1991, p.10)
  2. "The Dresden Codex". World Digital Library. 1200–1250. Retrieved 2013-08-21.


Coe, Michael D. (1992). Breaking the Maya Code. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05061-9. OCLC 26605966. 
Hammond, Norman (1991). "Introduction". In T. Patrick Culbert (ed.). Classic Maya Political History: Hieroglyphic and Archaeological Evidence. School of American Research advanced seminar series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–18. ISBN 0-521-39210-1. OCLC 20931118. 
 Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Förstemann, Ernst Wilhelm". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 

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