THERE are some who may believe Neanderthals are alive and well and can be found in Newcastle's Bigg Market on a Saturday night.

But in a new twist, scientists have overturned their views of Neanderthals by turning to modern Geordies.

Last year, French analysis of the front teeth of Neanderthals suggested their lives were too brutish and short for them to enjoy adolescence, with adulthood by 15.

That has now been ruled out by researchers from Ohio State University and Newcastle University.

Researchers used dental impressions of 55 teeth from 30 Neanderthals. This was then compared to teeth from Inuits and Southern Africans -and with 115 teeth from Newcastle residents.

Dr Don Reid, a lecturer in dental anthropology at Newcastle University, who helped write the report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said: "Based on our study of the enamel of these Neanderthal teeth and other modern ones, we cannot support the claim that Neanderthals grew up more quickly than modern humans."

Dr Reid said the key to the conclusions of the study were microscopic lines on the outside of teeth that mark the growth of enamel on a young tooth. Like rings that can gauge the age of a tree, the lines record growth on teeth.

The prolonged childhood of modern humans is unique among primates and is related to our large brains, which require time to develop.

Now it seems Neanderthals, who thrived from 150,000 years to 30,000 years ago, also took time to develop.

Dr Reid said the fact that evidence was drawn from Geordies had no bearing on the outcome.

He said: "Had I been working in Liverpool, it would have been Scousers, or in Birmingham we'd have used Brummies."