This paper describes the rediscovery of the exact location for the Isleham hoard (tl 63197253) and presents the results of related fieldwork; it briefly reviews the metallurgical significance of the hoard, and discusses its local environmental and social context, as well as the distribution of founder's hoards within the Fenland region.
The hoard was found to have been placed in a pit dug into a filled-in Bronze Age boundary ditch, next to a rectangular building, and adjacent to the edge of low-lying wetland bordering a palaeochannel which revealed an environmental sequence stretching from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age. This area is also in proximity to a possible ringwork. Mesolithic and Neolithic activity is evidenced by residual flint tools and pottery. By the Bronze Age the tongue of fen next to the hoard had begun to be invaded by ferns and terrestrial vegetation and its latest peat phase was radiocarbon dated to 4045 ± 62 bp. Molluscs within the boundary ditch show an open landscape with a mixture of dryland and wetland taxa, and the presence of Vertigo angustior, a rare British species no longer known from Cambridgeshire, and one indicative of transitional habitats between wet and dry land. This landscape was probably contemporary with the deposition of the hoard.
Current typological and radiocarbon analysis for Wilburton metalwork would suggest a date within the period 1150 to 1000 bc for the hoard, whilst a typological assessment of the pot in which the hoard was found suggests an affinity with Post-Deverel-Rimbury (PDR) Plainware dated currently from around 1150 to 800 bc. OSL dating of a sample of the pot containing the hoard yielded a date of 1460 ± 230 bc at 1 sigma.
The locations of other founder's hoards within the region suggest a clustering in the southern fens and South Cambridgeshire, apparently related to ancient routeways.