Research into ancient, mainly prehistoric cultures, has led world-wide to a dramatic expansion of archaeological studies and to a number of new, highly specialized areas of archaeology. The cooperation between archaeologists and natural scientists has played an increasingly important role in this development. Faced with such a wide variety of archaeological research, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation has had to concentrate its support on particular areas. The Mediterranean area has traditionally been at the centre of the foundation´s programmes of support, whereby the Greek and Italian cultures and their relationships to their neighbours have been especially emphasized. In this connection, archaeology is seen as a historical discipline within the framework of classical ancient history.

All forms of archaeological research, whether theoretical or practical, can be supported. However, the foundation is especially interested in projects which attempt to answer clearly defined historical questions, or which in the fields of excavations and data processing use interesting methodical approaches or new techniques; of lesser interest are projects which focus on the presentation of materials or on cataloguing.

Preference is given to projects which describe and analyse specific characteristics of and changes in a culture in a concrete historical context. Investigations of antique cities, for instance, involving researchers with different special competencies, are viewed as particularly promising. The traditional „art-history“ approaches can also lead to new insights in the context of such an integrated approach. The world of images – a reflection of the values and ideals of a society – is in a constant state of tension with the everyday world. Recent studies comparing cultures and the phenomena of acculturation and cultural decay have proved particularly rewarding.

In the field of ancient history and classical philology the foundation is particularly interested in supporting projects in which methods or contents have an interdisciplinary character and where the questions to be answered permit a link with archaeological concerns. In the case of historical studies, these projects will come largely from the fields of religious history, economic history, social history and the history of mentality; for philology, from the examination of texts which are relevant to these various areas of historical research.

The interdisciplinary dialogue between the various sub-disciplines of ancient history deserves further attention, with the goal of bringing sophisticated methods developed in a single field to a wider application. Similarly, ancient history has methodological contributions to make when viewed in its role as a part of the entire field of historical studies; and classical philology, seen as part of the field of linguistics and literary studies as well as in relation to philosophy and studies of the ancient world, may also contribute to methodological advances.

Finally, research projects are welcomed which relate the field of ancient history to all the other areas of cultural studies.