In the 1980s, Israeli archaeologists excavated a large residential building not far from the Temple Mount, which they conjectured had belonged to the high priest or kohen gadol—the direct descendent of Aaron responsible for performing the most important rituals in the Temple. Leen Ritmeyer describes the building, and provides photographs of the excavation along with his own intricate drawings of its layout:
This mansion may have been built by Annas who was high priest from 6 until 15 CE, as he was one of the few people who could have afforded to build such a large and lavishly decorated residence. The family of Annas was very wealthy as they controlled the Temple market that was set up in the Temple courts and out of bounds for normal moneychangers. Josephus called one of the sons of Annas “a great hoarder of money.”
This building covers 600 square meters and is one of the largest residences dating from the Second Temple period ever uncovered, not only in Jerusalem, but in the whole of the country. This mansion is located on the eastern edge of the southwestern hill that slopes down to the Tyropoeon Valley. Overlooking the Temple Mount, it would have been considered prime real estate in the 1st century CE, as indeed it is today.
The structure is built on two levels, each consisting of two stories and has many rooms built around a central open courtyard. The walls of several of these rooms were decorated with fresco and stucco designs. Seven rooms had mosaic floors, three of which were decorated with colorful carpets.
Eight mikva’ot (ritual baths), catering to the purification requirements of the residents, were found in the mansion, indicating that the complex was occupied by priests who served in the Temple.
Read more at Ritmeyer Archaeological Design
More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, High priest, Jerusalem