Leen Ritmeyer

The siege of Jerusalem—key to a high priest’s tomb. When the Roman commander Titus began his stranglehold on the capital in 70 A.D., the culmination of the suppression of the First Jewish Revolt, he surrounded the city with a siege wall. The historian Josephus describes the location of the wall in his Wars of the Jews (5:504–507): “Beginning at the camp of the Assyrians—the site of his own encampment—he directed the wall towards the lower region of the New Town and thence across the Kidron to the Mount of Olives; then bending round to the south, he enclosed the mount as far as the rock called Peristereon together with the adjoining hill, which overhangs the Siloam ravine; thence inclining westwards, the line descended into the Valley of the Fountain, beyond which it ascended over against the tomb of Ananus [Annas] the high priest, and taking in the mountain where Pompey encamped, turned northwards, and proceeded to a village called ‘House of Pulse’ after passing which it encompassed Herod’s monument, and so joined the east side of the general’s own camp from which it had started.”

With this passage all the lines of evidence converge: The tombs of Akeldama are too elaborate to have been anything but burial places for Jerusalem’s prominent citizens; their decoration echoes that of the Temple Mount, where the priests served; and Josephus places the tomb of Annas in the area of Akeldama. The burial chamber illustrated in this article is very likely that of the high priest Annas and of his sons.