This is the first time that these art pages have focused on stone carving and the stone carving being examined here is of a very particular type: the carving of stone tombs, big stone chests called sarcophagi, which was a tradition of the richer Roman families around the Empire, particularly in Rome.
In the last 150 years of the Roman Empire - ending in the year 410AD when the city of Rome was sacked by the Visigoths, led by Alaric - Christians of these richer families, gradually free from persecution, were able to have tombs carved that included scenes proclaiming their Christian belief and, especially, their hope in the resurrection from the dead brought about by Christ.
Pagan examples of these tombs tend to have hunting scenes and scenes of the Roman gods. The earliest Christian examples portray Christian scenes and symbols in a hidden manner that could be interpreted as Christian only by Christians but otherwise looked like typical pastoral scenes with vines and shepherds. The symbol of the fish was a very important indicator that the person entombed meant the scenes to be interpreted as Christian.