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.
Epigraphy is the study of ancient inscriptions, usually found on hard surfaces such as stone. NEARA members use epigraphy to study contacts between Americans and other people before the late 15th century.
Some archaeologists say that the case for early voyages to America rests almost entirely on epigraphic evidence (e.g., Lepper 1995), but inscriptions account for only a small part of the evidence. The annotated bibliography Pre-Columbian Contact with the Americas Across the Oceans by Sorenson and Raish (1996), the best key to the literature on Pre-Columbian contact, has more than 5000 entries but only about a hundred that concern epigraphy. With so much evidence of other kinds, the presence of a few Old World inscriptions is to be expected.
Read the full article (PDF): EPIGRAPHY, Is This a Legitimate Subject for Study? by James L. Guthrie, NEARA Journal Vol. 35 No. 1, Summer, 2001