The Peace Symbol Is A Stylized Representation Of?
Answer: A Flag Semaphore
It would be easy to assume the peace symbol—a circle with an inverted forked shape in the center and closely associated with the 1960s counter-culture movement—was an older symbol co-opted by modern people. The origins of the symbol aren’t ancient, however, but date back to only the late 1950s.
The symbol was designed in 1958 by British artist and designer Gerald Holtom. He designed the symbol for the Direct Action Committee, a non-violent British protest organization focused on nuclear disarmament. The design itself, if we do say so, is absolutely brilliant as it’s a stylized representation of a person holding flags in the positions of N and D (for Nuclear Disarmament) in flag semaphore, which is essentially visual Morse code where the letters and numbers are communicated with physical positioning of flags instead of dots and dashes.
The symbol was immediately adopted by the culture movement and over time came to symbolize not only nuclear disarmament, but the anti-war/peace movement as a whole.
Image of semaphore positions courtesy of Denelson83/Wikimedia.