A research team, led by an archaeologist from Ireland’s University College Cork, has found what is believed to be the world’s oldest shoe, in Armenia.

Dr Ron Pinhasi, of University College Cork, Ireland, led the expedition, and said that the finding of the 5,500-year-old shoe was a breakthrough “It is not known whether the shoe belonged to a man or woman,”, said the academic, adding that the shoe, “could well have fitted a man from that era”. The shoe was about a US size seven.

The shoe, which dates back to around 3,500BC, was in near-perfect condition when it was found by the archaeologists.

The shoe contained grass, but archaeologists are undecided on whether this was to keep the shoe warm or to maintain its shape; some scientists believe the grass to be a primitive form of the modern shoe-horn.

Near perfect preservation of the piece was due to the cool, dry conditions of the cave in which the shoe was found. The cave floor was also lined with sheep dung, which acted as a sealant over the discoveries.

The 41-year-old archaeologist hails from Israel, but has been living in Cork since 2007. He was educated in Belgium as well as Canada.

The purpose of the cave, though, or even the reason the shoe was in the cave, remain mysteries.

The shoe itself was discovered by an Armenian PhD student working on Dr Pinhasi’s team, who said that she was “amazed” to make the discovery.