Research Faculty

Guidance, Inspiration and Support

Robert Parthesius

Associate Professor and Director of the Dhakira Center for Heritage Studies

In 2015, as a Visiting Professor and now as Associate Professor at New York University Abu Dhabi, he founded Dhakira Center for Heritage Studies to foster a hub for exploring new models of heritage management and creation in the Gulf. The focus of this has been multidisciplinary HeritageLab, a concept for more inclusive and sustainable models for heritage studies since 2013. As part of his research for both Leiden University and New York University, Parthesius has created research and field schools for students at World Heritage Sites connected throughout the historical Arabian Trade Route, including Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. He has organized several international conferences at NYUAD, including ‘The Unpredictable Past’ (2014), ‘Connected Through Heritage’ (2015), ‘Dialogues with the Past’ (2016) and Scientific Research for Cultural Heritage (2017) and co- organized a regional conference on underwater cultural heritage management
together with ICCRIOM -ATHAR (UAE) and UNESCO.

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Jonathan Sharfman

Maritime Archaeologist

Jonathan is a maritime archaeologist from South Africa. His work has focused on maritime and underwater cultural heritage in sub-Saharan Africa. He has worked in the government and NGO sector and, after being awarded his PhD by Leiden University in 2017, took up a post-doctoral associate position at NYUAD. In this role, Jonathan worked with the Dhakira Center for Heritage Studies conducting research on the maritime cultural landscape of the Gulf and developing the Center’s Heritage Studies program.


Jonathan is currently working with the African Centre for Heritage Activities and continues to work with Dhakira in developing a research agenda and academic strategy for Africa. Jonathan is a tutor for the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) in Africa and the Middle East.

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Eric Staples

Assistant Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences at Zayed University

Eric Staples is an interdisciplinary maritime historian whose interests include Indian Ocean shipbuilding, seafaring and navigation. In addition to his historical pursuits, he has also been actively involved in a variety of maritime archaeology and experimental archaeology projects. He is currently an assistant professor in the department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Zayed University, and co-director of the Bronze Age Boat Project, an initiative to build a hypothetical reconstruction of a 4,000-year-old reed vessel.

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Alia Yunis

Filmmaker and Author

Alia Yunis, University of Amsterdam, has worked on projects on five continents, focusing her writing and filmmaking on memory and heritage. Her feature documentary, The Golden Harvest (2019), made its debut at Thessaloniki International Film Festival, won Best of the Fest at its US debut at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. Alia is a PEN Emerging Voices Fellow, has been a top ten finalist Zoetrope Screenwriting Awards and the recipient of a comedy-writing award from Warner Bros. Her fiction and non-fiction writings have appeared in numerous places.  She is currently co-editing with Dr. Dale Hudson (NYUAD) a special double issue on film and visual media in the Gulf for the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication (Brill, 2020) and co-editing anthology on the same topic for Indiana University Press (2021) and is one of the contributing writers on the Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Cinema (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020) In 2010, she co-founded the Zayed University Middle East Film Festival (ZUMEFF), now the longest running film festival in the Gulf.

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Lauren Kata

Assistant Academic Librarian for Archives and Special Collections at NYU Abu Dhabi

Lauren Kata is a certified archivist and academic librarian for NYUAD Library, in Archives and Special Collections. She earned her graduate degrees in History and Archival Administration from Wayne State University, and is also a graduate of Case Western Reserve University’s American Studies and History programs. Professionally, she has over 20 years' experience in a broad range of archival and cultural heritage institutions, with a specialization in oral history and oral history archives. She is a co-author of the (US) Oral History Association’s Archiving Oral History: Manual of Best Practices. In addition to working with the University’s archival collections, Lauren leads information literacy and research instruction sessions, and coordinates “The NYUAD Memory Project.” She joined NYUAD in Fall 2019, and resides in Abu Dhabi.

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Richard Cuttler

Archaeologist for the Historic Environment Department

Dr Richard Cuttler is an Archaeologist for the Historic Environment Department at the Department of Culture and Tourism: Abu Dhabi. For 21 years he was based at the University of Birmingham. As a Senior Research Fellow he undertook projects in Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Oman and Abu Dhabi Emirate in the U.A. E.. He has also undertaken excavation and extensive survey in both the terrestrial and marine environments of the Arabian Gulf. Richard joined the Department of Culture and Tourism in 2017, and is currently working on the design and development of the Abu Dhabi Historic Environment Record (ADHER), a bespoke, bilingual software that will be central to the management and protection of heritage
in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

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Mark Beech

Head of Archaeology for the Al Dhafra and Abu Dhabi Capital Area regions in the Historic Environment Department

Dr. Mark Jonathan Beech has a Bachelor of Sciences in Archaeology from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, a Masters degree in Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy at the University of Sheffield, and a Phd in Archaeology from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, UK. Dr Beech has been involved in archaeological research in the UAE for the past 25 years, being Senior Resident Archaeologist for the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey from 1994-2006, then Cultural Landscapes Manager at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage from 2006-2012 and then Head of Coastal Heritage and Palaeontology at the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority from 2012-2017.  Since 2018 he is Head of Archaeology for the Al Dhafra and Abu Dhabi Capital Area regions in the Historic Environment Department at the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi).

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