GROTEFEND, Georg Friedrich. Hannoversch-Münden 9.6.1775 — Hannover 15.12.1853. German Philologist and Historian, the Famous Pioneer of Assyriology and Cuneiform Studies, Decipherer of the Old Persian Cuneiform Script. Son of Johann Christian Gr., a shoemaker, and Sophie Wolff. After Pädagogium in Ilfeld from 1795 studies of theology and philosophy at Göttingen (Heyne, Tychsen and Heeren). From 1797 teacher at Göttingen Gymnasium (also continued his studies), from 1803 Prorector of Frankfurt Gymnasium, 1806 Conrector, 1812 Professor. Finally, 1821-49 Director of Hannover Gymnasium. Married 1805 Christiane Bornemann, five sons and two daughters, i.al. historian Karl Ludwig Gr. (1807–1874).

With the help of Niebuhr’s copies of Old Persian cuneiform inscriptions he successfully identified the names and titles of Achaemenid kings, known to him from Greek and Hebrew parallel evidence. Although in other respects his readings of these inscriptions were still quite fanciful, this was the real break-through of decipherment. His later attempt to also explain the Akkadian cuneiform was a failure.

Publications: “De Cuneatis, quas vocant, inscriptionibus Persepolitanis legendis et explicandis relatio”, Comm. Soc. R. Gotting. 1802, 576-583, 585-594, 594-603 & 1803, 605-616, German version “Über die Erklärung der Keilschriften, und besonders der Inschriften von Persepolis” as appendix in Heeren’s Ideen über die Politik den Verkehr und den Handel der vornehmsten Völker der alten Welt. Göttingen 1805, 931-960.

Neue Beiträge zur Erläuterung der persepolitanischen Keilschrift. 4°. 48 p. Hannover 1837.

– “Die Tributverzeichnisse des Obelisken aus Nimrud nebst Vorbemerkungen über den verschiedenen Ursprung und Character der persischen und assyrischen Keilschrift”, AGGW 5, 1853, 201-298, 3 pl. and other works, on Latin, Osco-Umbrian, Lycian and Phrygian insctiptions, etc.

Sources: numerous sources, i.al. *D. Cherubim, Lex. gramm. 1996, 374f.; D.-O. Edzard, N.D.B. 7, 1966, 164f.; *H. Grotefend (his grandson), A.D.B. 9, 1879, 763-765; *J. Mohl, JA 5:4, 1854; *P. Swiggers, “La base Leibnizienne des déchiffrements de G.F.G.”, OLP 10, 1979, 125-132; *G.F.Gr. 1775–1853. Festschrift seiner Vaterstadt zu seinem Gedenken. 88 p. München 1975; Wikipedia with photo (see also German version); two portraits in Pedersen 1959, 155 & 158.