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A Mongolian woman reaches out from the porthole of a crate in which she was left to die, 1913

This photo was taken in July 1913 by French photographer Albert Kahn. Albert Kahn was a millionaire banker who pioneered color photography using the process invented by the Lumière brothers. 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 and death by being deposited in a remote desert inside a wooden crate that was to become her tomb.

Initially the bowls on the ground had water in it, though was not intentionally refilled, and the person inside was allowed to beg for food which often just prolonged their suffering as they generally didn’t get enough food for the passersby. The photographer had to leave her in the box because it would be against a prime directive of anthropologists to intervene in another cultures law and order system.

The photo was first published in the 1922 issue of National Geographic under the caption “Mongolian prisoner in a box”. It was the publishers who made the claim that the woman was condemned to die of starvation as a punishment for adultery. Since then, many people expressed doubts over the story, although the authenticity of the photo is undisputed.

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