In February 1998 during the construction of a bypass in the city of Bohicon in Benin, Danish company DANISA discovered a subterranean town of over fifty dwellings lying thirty feet beneath the ground. Known as the Agongointo-Zoungoudo Underground Town, the series of bunker-type cellars, rooms and passageways were found when a bulldozer fell into one of the caverns during the construction project.
Sources say the underground town dates back to the late 16th or early 17th century during the reign of King Dakodonou, the second king of Dahomey (present-day Benin). Dakodonou or Dako Donu ruled from around 1620 until 1645 and is believed to be the son of Do-Aklin, the founder of the royal dynasty of Dahomey, and the father to Houegbadja, usually considered the founder of the Kingdom of Dahomey, one of West Africa’s most powerful pre-colonial states.
Agongointo-Zoungoudo is located approximately 9 km from Abomey, a city in southern Benin which was also the capital of the Kingdom of Dahomey from the 17th to 19th centuries. Agongointo-Zoungoudo comes with homes segmented into living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. UNESCO says these rooms served as accommodation and as a refuge for warriors. Some of the rooms have so many levels, and others seem to have been connected to a well, according to Atlas Obscura.
Just four months after the discovery of the underground town, it was designated a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site. According to a report, it was added to the list because it reunited two criteria — 1. Represent a masterpiece of human creative genius, and 2. Be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.
Right after the site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List, it was transformed into an archaeological park by officials in Bohicon. The park has since been open to the public. Those who are fortunate to make it to Bohicon will not only experience the rich beauty and history of the site of the underground town but also its exhibition hall, amazing butterfly garden, a baobab tree and other spots of local Vodun belief, Atlas Obscura says.
Benin may be one of the smallest countries in Africa in terms of landmass, but it’s among the most popular travel destinations on the continent. Its untold natural wonders and landmarks make it the preferred choice for travelers who want to experience the real indigenous Africa.
Agongointo-Zoungoudo is just outside of Abomey, which was not only the capital of the kingdom of Dahomey but home to at least 12 royal palaces. The Dahomey Kingdom was a powerful regional state that controlled large areas and several tribes in pre-colonial West Africa around the 18th and 19th centuries like the Oyo Empire, the Songhai Empire, the Mali Empire, and so on. At the height of her powers, Dahomey had a large army including the powerful Dahomey Amazons – an all-female military unit that terrorized the enemy.
Dahomey also had significant international trade with Europeans, a robust economy and a highly organized political system. In spite of all these, it succumbed to the superior weapons of the French colonial empire in 1894 but not without the heroic resistance demonstrated by the last king of Dahomey – King Behanzin. The dispassionate valor and bravery showed by Behanzin made him one of the leaders of Africa who gave all to liberate Africans under slavery as well as from political and economic subjugation.