A lost settlement near Dunluce Castle on the North Coast, which was only re-discovered four years ago, has been earmarked for excavation.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is offering more than £300,000 support, as part of a package of funds that could stretch to £4m.
It is hoped a lost 17th-century town could be discovered amid the ruins.
Welcoming a chance to discover a piece of hidden heritage, SDLP Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: "I see much potential unearthing our historic past to boost tourism today.
Dunluce has very exciting archaeology and the potential of uncovering our own "little Pompeii" is huge
"I very much welcome that the HLF has chosen to support this opportunity to explore the hidden heritage at Dunluce and to develop new visitor facilities here which will do justice to this incredible site."
During initial excavations in 2009, the NI Environment Agency (NIEA) and experts from Queen's University found a well-developed settlement incorporating a cobbled meeting place and market, houses, industrial buildings and administrative offices.
Artefacts such as blacksmith tools and horseshoes were also unearthed.
Paul Mullan, head of HLF Northern Ireland said: "One of the most exciting aspects of this project is the opportunity to step back in time and reveal this superbly preserved 17th-century town, which has lain undisturbed for centuries.
"It will also provide opportunities for people to get actively involved in helping to reveal and secure the future of this hugely significant heritage asset for current and future generations to experience, learn from and enjoy.
"We are delighted to support these outline proposals. There is much work to be done however and we look forward to receiving the fully developed plans in due course."