He studied under Theodor Mommsen in Berlin, and later received his doctorate from the University of Göttingen with the thesis "De Isidori Originum fontibus" (1874). In 1878 he became a professor at the German Archaeological Institute in Rome, and in 1898 was appointed director of the Münzkabinett (numismatic cabinet) in Berlin.
He is best known for several books on Latin inscriptions, and he is the discoverer of the Duenos inscription, one of the oldest extant examples of Old Latin writing. Dressel also developed a typology for classifying ancient amphorae, based on his pioneering excavations at Monte Testaccio in Rome.
- Dressel, Heinrich (1899). Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, volume XV.
- Dressel, Heinrich. Inscriptiones urbis Romae latinae. Instrumentum domesticum.
- Dressel, Heinrich (1906). Fünf Goldmedaillons aus dem Funde von Abukir; Berlin : Verlag der Königl. Akademie der Wissenschaften.
- De Isidori Originum fontibus OCLC WorldCat
- Dressel, Heinrich In: Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB). Band 4, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1959, ISBN 3-428-00185-0, S. 111 f.
- Fünf Goldmedaillons aus dem Funde von Abukir OCLC WorldCat
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