The history of photography of a woman buried alive in a chest in the desert of Mongolia3 min read
Despite this photo, taken in July 1913, became popular under the name of Albert Khan and if you look for it on the Internet, the first results you find will present him as the author of the image, if you dig up a little bit, you’ll find out that the actual man who pointed his camera towards this scene in Mongolia was Stéphane Passet.
But why this confusion? Stéphane Passet, and several other photographers were commissioned by Albert Kahn to travel the world and take pictures of the cultural traditions and customs of every corner of the globe. Albert Kahn was a Parisian millionaire banker who pioneered color photography using the process invented by the Lumière brothers called Autochromia.
He financed an expedition around the world to document the uses and customs of the peoples of his time, sending professional photographers who produced 72,000 images to the four corners of the planet, an invaluable historical archive called “The Archives of the Planet”.
Stephane Passet also crossed Mongolia, where he immortalized this woman who was condemned to slow and painful starvation by being deposited in a remote desert inside a wooden crate that was to become her tomb.
For the execution, bowls were initially placed on the sides of the wooden chest, and sometimes food and water were given, which just prolonged her suffering. The photographer left the woman in the box and did not intervene to avoid altering the balance of local laws and civilizations.
The photo was published on National Geographic in 1922 with the caption “Mongolian prisoner in a box”. The publishers claimed that the woman was sentenced to death to punish her adultery. However, the veracity of the statement was often questioned, even if the authenticity of the photograph is undisputed.
Immurement (from Latin im- “in” and mūrus “wall”, literally “walling in”) is a form of imprisonment, usually leading to death, in which a person is placed within an enclosed space with no exits. Often, when used as a means of execution, the prisoner is simply left to die of hunger and dehydration. Immurement was certainly practiced in Mongolia during the first part of the 20th century, later replaced by shooting (the death penalty was abolished only in 2012).
Being walled alive did not always lead to death, but could also represent a form of torture, as in Far Eastern country, where prisoners were locked up in chests where they could not lie down or stand up and see the light of day only for a few seconds, when food was thrown through a small hole.
Source: rarehistoricalphotos and different web researches.