Mongolian Woman Condemned To Die Of Starvation

Mongolian woman condemned to die of starvation in crate. This photo was taken in July 1913 by French photographer Albert Kahn. She was said to have been accused of adultery. c1913 © Albert Kahn

A young Mongolian woman condemned to die of starvation in a wooden box. This photo was taken in July 1913 by French photographer Albert Kahn. She was said to have been accused of adultery. She is seen trying to find a way out for her using the hole cut for air. It was first published in the 1922 issue of National Geographic under the caption “Mongolian prisoner in a box”.


Albert Kahn was a millionaire French banker and philanthropist, who pioneered color photography using the process invented by the Lumière brothers, which is called the Autochrome Lumière.

During his trip through exotic countries, Albert Kahn visited Mongolia where he took this picture of a woman who was condemned to slow and painful starvation by being deposited in a remote desert inside a wooden box that was to become her tomb!

Immurement – A Brutal Punishment:

“Immurement,” that literally means “walling in” in Latin, is a form of imprisonment, usually for life, in which a condemned person is placed within an enclosed space with no exits. This includes instances where people have been enclosed in extremely tight confinement, such as within a coffin. When used as a means of execution, the prisoner is simply left to die from starvation or dehydration. Immurement was practiced in Mongolia as recently as the early 20th century.

The Life And The Passion Of Albert Kahn:

Albert Kahn at his office in Paris, 1914

Albert Kahn was born in Marmoutier, Bas-Rhin, France on 3 March 1860. Between 1879 and 1892, Kahn earned enough reputation as a banker in France.

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In 1909, Kahn travelled with his chauffeur and photographer, Alfred Dutertre, to Japan on business and returned with many photographs of the journey. This inspired him to initiate a project collecting a photographic record of the entire Earth.

He appointed Jean Brunhes as the project director, and sent photographers to every continent to record images of the planet using the first practical medium for colour photography, Autochrome plates, and early cinematography.

Between 1909 and 1931 they collected 72,000 colour photographs and 183,000 meters of film. These form a unique historical record of 50 countries, known as The Archives of the Planet.

Apart from these, Albert Kahn created a garden named the “Gardens of the World” in Paris, in the 1890s, that became very famous in the country.

The economic crisis of the Great Depression ruined Kahn and put an end to his project. Kahn died at Boulogne-Billancourt, Hauts-de-Seine, France on 14 November 1940 during the Nazi occupation of France.

Albert Kahn Museum And Garden:

Since 1986, the photographs have been collected into a museum at 14 Rue du Port, Boulogne-Billancourt, Paris, at the site of his garden. The museum got its name after Albert Kahn, which is now recognized as a French national museum. It includes four hectares of gardens, as well as the museum which houses his historic photographs and films.

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