Website Category: Ancient sub-Saharan Civilisations
Area: 0.5 km2
Criteria: (iii) cultural tradition (iv) icon of an era
Location and Values: The site of the Royal Palaces of Abomey is located in southern Benin, near the town of Abomey. Here, over the years between about 1695 and 1900 a succession of twelve kings ruled over the powerful empire of the Fon people. The empire derived its wealth by trading prisoners of war as slaves with European merchants, and each of the kings built a Palace within the same mud-built enclosure at Abomey. Crucially for a society without written documents, decorative bas-reliefs were used on the palace walls, illustrating the most significant events in the evolution of the empire, glorifying the military victories and documenting the Fon people's myths, customs and rituals.
Unfortunately – from a historical point of view – the palaces were burned down by Abomey King Benhanzin in order to defy French occupation in 1892, leaving just one of the earlier palaces, the so-called Hall of Jewels. Today, this palace, now roofed in corrugated iron sheets, and the crumbling mud walls of the outer enclosure, are all that remains of the palace complex.
Slideshow of the Royal Palaces Of Abomey: The slideshow includes 8 photos showing the principal remaining Palace building, and some detail of the bas reliefs. There are also three photos of the crumbling mud-built outer enclosure of the Palace complex, standing amongst people’s newly-planted crops.
Slideshow of the Royal Palaces Of Abomey:
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the Royal Palaces of Abomey on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing. It is worth taking a few minutes to see what remains of the Palace complex and view its environment close to the modern town of Abomey.