THE WRITTEN WORD
Emerging from the depth of the unknown past, our early ancestors began to extend the advantages of speech into ways of leaving silent messages.
Beginning with petrographs carved on stone during the Neolithic and Bronze ages, the symbols evolved into the more organized arrangements found in the glyphs of the budding civilizations of the Orient, Indus Valley, Mesopotamia, Egypt and in Americas the Mayan glyphs of the Yucatan. First in Greece, and then Rome the alphabetical symbols were codified into the western alphabets as we know them, yet outliers such as the Germanic Runes or Irish Ogham continued in use into the middle Ages. As linguists analyze and compare the world language tree, they find both vast differences and surprising similarities.
Epigraphy is the study of ancient inscriptions, usually found on hard surfaces such as stone. NEARA members use epigraphic study and comparison to study early transoceanic contacts in the Americas. The majority opinion of American archaeologists is that there are no authentic Old World inscriptions in the Americas and that none should be expected because there were no proven foreign contacts except by the Norse at Newfoundland. Even the Norse inscriptions are considered spurious by opponents of early voyaging. Evidence indicating early sea travel is not welcomed by those already convinced that it did not or could not have happened. Common arguments against early contact are as follows:
The Oceans were barriers to travel, not highways, and people simply lacked the capacity to sail or paddle more than a few miles from shore before the exploits of the great European navigators of the 15th century.
Over 6,000 languages are spoken around the world, yet the number of written languages has not been determined. Mandarin Chinese boasts the most speakers,with Spanish and English second and third. The Americas count up to 1,000 indigenous languages and some researchers suggest that there may have been up to 2,000 in the more distant past, with Mayan glyphs the only "written system" with the exception of the controversial Canadian Micmac hieroglyphs. However pictorial systems (picture writing) whether on stone bark or skin were common among native populations.
Within NEARA's purview, there are scattered examples of purported near or Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Germanic and Celtic inscriptions. These have mostly been deemed "impossible" or outright hoaxes, but there is compelling evidence for authentic examples as well. The two categories that have drawn the most attention and most controversy derive from the broader subjects of both Norse and Celtic contact with the Americas. Any number of carved stones have been interpreted as being Irish or Celt Iberian Ogham while others suggest variations on Norse Runic alphabets.