An aquiline nose (also called a Roman nose or hook nose) is a human nose with a prominent bridge, giving it the appearance of being curved or slightly bent. The word aquiline comes from the Latin word aquilinus ("eagle-like"), an allusion to the curved beak of an eagle. While some have ascribed the aquiline nose to specific ethnic, racial, or geographic groups, and in some cases associated it with other supposed non-physical characteristics (e.g., intelligence, status, personality, etc., see below), no scientific studies or evidence support any such linkage. As with many other phenotypical expressions (e.g., "widow's peak", eye color, earwax type) it is found in many geographically diverse populations.
Although the aquiline nose is found among people from nearly every area of the world, it is generally associated with and thought to be more frequent in certain ethnic groups originating from Southern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus, South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa. Some writers in the field of racial typology have attributed aquiline noses as a characteristic of different peoples or races; e.g.: according to anthropologist Jan Czekanowski, it is most frequently found amongst members of the Oriental race and Armenoid race. It is also often seen in the Mediterranean race and Dinarid race, where it is known as the "Roman nose" when found amongst Italians, the Southern French, Portuguese and Spanish.
In racialist discourse
In racialist discourse, especially that of post-Enlightenment Western scientists and writers, a Roman nose (in an individual or a people) has been characterized as a marker of beauty and nobility, but the notion itself is found early on in Plutarch, in his description of Mark Antony. Among Nazi racialists the "hooked", Jewish nose was a characteristic of Jews. However, Maurice Fishberg in Jews, Race and Environment (1911) cites widely different statistics to deny that the aquiline nose (or "hook nose") is characteristic of Jews, but rather to show that this type of nose occurs in all peoples of the world. The supposed science of physiognomy, popular during the Victorian era, made the "prominent" nose a marker of Aryanness: "the shape of the nose and the cheeks indicated, like the forehead's angle, the subject's social status and level of intelligence. A Roman nose was superior to a snub nose in its suggestion of firmness and power, and heavy jaws revealed a latent sensuality and coarseness".
Anasa (literally "those without a nose", figuratively "those without an aquiline nose") is another term frequently used in the Vedas to refer to the local, indigenous populations, whom the Aryas regarded as different from them and therefore to be stigmatized.
In the modern era, critics such as Jack Shaheen in Reel Bad Arabs argues that "Hollywood's image of hook-nosed, robed Arabs parallels the image of Jews in Nazi-inspired movies ... Yesterday's Shylocks resemble today's hook-nosed sheikhs, arousing fear of the 'other'."
Among Native Americans
The aquiline nose was deemed a distinctive feature of some Native American tribes, members of which often took their names after their own characteristic physical attributes (i.e. The Hook Nose, or Chief Henry Roman Nose). In the depiction of Native Americans, for instance, an aquiline nose is one of the standard traits of the "noble warrior" type. It is so important as a cultural marker, Renee Ann Cramer argued in Cash, Color, and Colonialism (2005), that tribes without such characteristics have found it difficult to receive "federal recognition" or "acknowledgement" from the US government, which is necessary to have a continuous government-to-government relationship with the United States.
Among populations in North Africa
The flat, broad nose is ubiquitous among most populations in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is noted by nineteenth-century writers and travelers (such as Colin Mackenzie) as a mark of "Negroid" ancestry. It stands in opposition to the narrow aquiline, straight or convex noses (lepthorrine), which are instead deemed "Caucasian".
In the 1930s, an aquiline nose was reported to be regarded as a characteristic of beauty for girls among the Tswana and Xhosa people. However, a recent scholar could not discern from the original study "whether such preferences were rooted in precolonial conceptions of beauty, a product of colonial racial hierarchies, or some entanglement of the two". A well-known example of the aquiline nose as a marker in Africa contrasting the bearer with his/her contemporaries is the protagonist of Aphra Behn's Oroonoko (1688). Although an African prince, he speaks French, has straightened hair, thin lips, and a "nose that was rising and Roman instead of African and flat". These features set him apart from most of his peers, and marked him instead as noble and on par with Europeans.
According to craniometric analysis by Carleton Coon (1939), aquiline noses in Africa are largely restricted to populations from North Africa and the Horn of Africa (in contrast to those of Sub-Saharan Africa), which is more generally peopled by those of Semitic, Arab, and other non-"Negroid" descent. However, they are generally less common in these areas than are narrow, straight noses, which instead constitute the majority of nasal profiles. It has been reported however, that aquiline noses are more prevalent among Algerian, Egyptian, Tunisian, Moroccan, Eritrean, Ethiopian and Somali people, than among Southern Europeans. Among the Copts and Fellahin of Egypt, three nasal types reportedly exist: one with a narrow, aquiline nose accompanied by a slim face, slender jaw and thin lips; secondly a slightly lower rooted, straight-to-concave nose, accompanied by a wider and lower face, a strong jaw, prominent chin, moderately wide; thirdly a wide nose on either including those with high and low cheekbones.
Among Nordic peoples
For Western racial anthropologists such as Madison Grant (in The Passing of the Great Race (1911) and other works) and William Z. Ripley, the aquiline nose is characteristic of the peoples they variously identify Nordic, Teutonic, Celtic, Norman, Frankish, and Anglo-Saxon. Grant, after defining the Nordics as having aquiline noses, went back through history and found such a nose and other characteristics he called "Nordic" in many historically prominent men. Among these were Dante Alighieri, "all the chief men of the Renaissance", as well as King David. Grant identified Jesus Christ as having had those "physical and moral attributes" (emphasis added).
Among South Asian peoples
A prominent aquiline (or high-bridged) nose is seen as a feature of powerful or heroic figures in traditional Hindu mythology, as well as a beauty standard in ancient Indian and Southeast Asian societies. Among specific ethnic groups, the aquiline nose type is most common among the peoples of Afghanistan, Dardistan, Pakistan and Kashmir, as well as a prominent feature in the Greco-Buddhist statuary of Gandhara (a region spanning the upper Indus and Kabul river valleys throughout northern Pakistan and Kashmir). The ethnographer George Campbell, in his Ethnology of India, states that:
"The high nose, slightly aquiline, is a common type [among Kashmiri Brahmins]. Raise a little the brow of a Greek statue and give the nose a small turn at the bony point in front of the bridge, so as to break the straightness of the line, you have the model type of this part of India, to be found both in living men and in the statues of the Peshawar Valley."
- Anatomy of the human nose
- Jewish nose
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