Chemical tests on teeth from an ancient burial near Stonehenge indicate that the person in the grave grew up around the Mediterranean Sea.
The bones belong to a teenager who died 3,550 years ago and was buried with a distinctive amber necklace.
The conclusions come from analysis of different forms of the elements oxygen and strontium in his tooth enamel.
Analysis on a previous skeleton found near Stonehenge showed that that person was also a migrant to the area.
The “Boy with the Amber Necklace”, as he is known to archaeologists, was found in 2005, about 5km south-east of Stonehenge on Boscombe Down.
The remains of the teenager were discovered next to a Bronze Age burial mound, during roadworks for military housing.
“He’s around 14 or 15 years old and he’s buried with this beautiful necklace,” said Professor Jane Evans.
“The position of his burial, the fact he’s near Stonehenge, and the necklace all suggest he’s of significant status.”
Tooth enamel forms in a child’s first few years, so it stores a chemical record of the environment in which the individual grew up.
Two chemical elements found in enamel – oxygen and strontium – exist in different forms, or isotopes. The ratios of these isotopes found in enamel are particularly informative to archaeologists.
Most oxygen in teeth and bone comes from drinking water – which is itself derived from rain or snow.
In warm climates, drinking water contains a higher ratio of heavy oxygen (O-18) to light oxygen (O-16) than in cold climates. So comparing the oxygen isotope ratio in teeth with that of drinking water from different regions can provide information about the climate in which a person was raised.
Most rocks carry a small amount of the element strontium (Sr), and the ratio of strontium 87 and strontium 86 isotopes varies according to local geology.
The isotope ratio of strontium in a person’s teeth can provide information on the geological setting where that individual lived in childhood.
By combining the techniques, archaeologists can gather data pointing to regions where a person may have been raised.