Karen Polinger Foster (A.B. 1971, Mount Holyoke College; M.A. 1974, M.Phil. 1974, Ph.D. 1976, Yale University) specializes in the art and archaeology of the Bronze Age Aegean, with particular interests in interconnections with Egypt and Mesopotamia. She is the author of Aegean Faience of the Bronze Age (1979) and Minoan Ceramic Relief (1981). She co-edited with Robert Laffineur METRON: Measuring the Aegean Bronze Age (2004), the proceedings of the 9th International Aegean Conference, held at Yale University in 2002. Her most recent book, Civilizations of Ancient Iraq (2009), co-authored with Benjamin R. Foster, received the 2010 Felicia A. Holton Book Award from the Archaeological Institute of America. A previous book on Iraq, Iraq Beyond the Headlines: History, Archaeology, and War (2005), was co-authored with Benjamin R. Foster and Patty Gerstenblith. Her current major research project involves the final preparation of Strange and Wonderful: Exotic Flora and Fauna in Image and Imagination, a comprehensive study of this material from ancient to modern times.
In addition, she is the author of over seventy articles and book reviews. Her articles treat various aspects of Bronze Age art and iconography, including studies of the wall painting programs from Thera. She has recently completed a trilogy dealing with volcanic imagery in art and literature, beginning with the Thera eruption and concluding with the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii. Her interest in the chronology of the Thera eruption has resulted in the publication of several collaborative scientific analyses of pumice from Egyptian graves. She participates regularly in conferences, panel discussions, and lecture series for scholarly and more general audiences, and has organized or co-organized over a dozen special events, exhibitions, and symposia.
In something of a departure from her scholarly career, she retold for children a Sumerian folktale and illustrated it with her own cut-paper mosaics based on Sumerian art. The book, The City of Rainbows: A Tale from Ancient Sumer (1999), is regularly used in schools here and abroad, including in Iraq itself.
She has also been actively involved with local history research in the region of Soissons, France, having summered there since 1983. In 2005, she published Tartiers: Portrait d’un village soissonnais. Her latest book, Au secours des enfants du Soissonnais: Lettres américaines de Mary Breckinridge, 1919-1921, was co-authored with Monique Judas-Urschel. This is a translation into French, with commentary, of over 50 previously unpublished documents that provide unique insights into the reconstruction of northern France, especially in the area of public health, carried out by a small group of American women in the years immediately after World War I.