WHILE IT comes in all shapes and colours, the humble suitcase has the ability to do two things: a) send you into a rage when a piece goes missing; and b) put you into a hypnotic state as you wait, eyes glued to carousel, as it pops out bags like a mechanical maternity ward. But the origins of this simple object are rooted in history. Even in ice. Otzi the Iceman, the well-preserved man mummy from about 3300BC, never left home without his bag which was attached to him when he was discovered in 1991 near the Austrian and Italian border. It was in the 19th century, as train, ship and car travel started to take off, that the modern suitcase started to take shape and Louis Vuitton, the man behind the world's most famous - and most copied - monogram, lead the fashionable way. In the late 1860s, with the tall person in mind, Vuitton developed the bed trunks (one was made for the French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza - 1852-1905). A Louis Vuitton Catalogue from 1914 says: 'The bed trunk makes a perfect bed thanks to its horse hair mattress. It is small and very easily transportable. Sometimes, very tall persons, for whom hotel beds are too small, order bed trunks with special long dimensions and travel with them, even in France.' And stylish ladies who wanted to pack all their accessories with them to ensure they looked beautiful for the entire holiday loved Mr Vuitton for his secretary trunk. This huge piece of luggage was fitted with drawers for undergarments and up to 36 pairs of shoes. The brand's steamer trunk was also popular and a favourite of actress Katharine Hepburn who had a large selection of Louis Vuitton luggage. Another brand to have stood the test of time is Globe-Trotter which was founded in Saxony, Germany, before shifting to London in 1901. Its cases were the luggage of choice for Queen Elizabeth II on her honeymoon, while explorer Sir Edmund Hillary lugged them into the history books when he conquered Mt Everest in 1951. By the mid-20th century exotic holidays were a symbol of your status and to advertise this tourists plastered their suitcases with stickers, showing off their class. But fast-forward and travelling, thanks to cheaper budget airlines, is now for the masses, and amid a war on terror, people are turning to brands such as Samsonite, with more emphasis on locks than looks. And for the ultimate in secure luggage there's always Dutch firm Henk; heavy on technology and price. But beware, while the suitcase innocently transports our bikini and sundresses to exotic destinations each summer holiday, it can be a courier for more sinister objects - drugs, weapons, dirty money, body parts. And during the Cold war there were claims of nuclear suitcases although neither the US nor Russia have ever made public the existence or development of weapons small enough to fit into a normal-sized suitcase or briefcase. Hmmm, so much power in one person's hands. But for baggage handlers and customs officials, odd things are always popping up. This year in a New York airport a drug-filled dead cat, a frozen monkey head and a suitcase bursting with cockroaches were among the more unusual items that didn't make it on the flight. In 2006, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, things got odder when baggage screeners found a human head with teeth, hair and skin in the luggage of a woman who said she intended to ward off evil spirits with it. Suitcases have also entered the art realm with Dutch designer Maarten De Ceulaer using them as his medium of choice, while last year at Germany's Munich Airport they were used as a powerful protest tool when women were packed in transparent cases with stickers reading 'Stop Human Trafficking! 60 Years of Human Rights,' as part of Amnesty International's campaign against human trafficking. And if you've ever wondered where unclaimed baggage ends up, then Alabama is a good guess. Since 1970 the Unclaimed Baggage Centre in Scottsboro, Alabama, has literally been buying truckloads of unclaimed bags, turning its store into a bargain hunter's paradise. Among the weird and wonderful things discovered include a 40.95-carat emerald, a guidance system for an F16 fighter jet valued at a quarter of a million US dollars (it was returned to the US Navy); and in a well-worn Gucci suitcase were found Egyptian artifacts dating back to 1500BC, including a mummified falcon and a shrunken head. The suitcase has also played big roles in Hollywood. In Dumb and Dumber a cash-laden suitcase triggers a series of hilarious events for rubber-faced Jim Carey and his sidekick, while steamer trunks were joined together and used as a life raft in the very odd Joe Versus the Volcano. And for those who struggle with packing a case do not stress - there are numerous help sites dedicated to the art of packing. Happy travels. Baggage screeners found a human head with teeth, hair and skin in the luggage of a woman who said she intended to ward off evil spirits Hermes The Hermes Group, founded in 1837, is famous for its quality products, with women waiting for years and forking out a small fortune for its Birkin and Kelly bags. Goyard La Maison Goyard has, since 1853, hand made distinctive cases, trunks, luggage and handbags, adhering to traditional methods that remain unchanged to this day. Louis Vuitton Founded in 1854, LV is one of the most recognisable - and most copied - brands in the world. Bags are favoured among A-listers; including the ones here, owned by former screen legend Katharine Hepburn. Globe-Trotter Founded in 1897 this British brand was the luggage of choice for Queen Elizabeth II on her honeymoon and is now enjoying a revival with the younger generation. Gucci The Italian luxury goods maker, established in 1921, was loved by icons such as Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Jacqueline Onassis. Valextra The Italian leather goods company founded in 1937 is famous with jet-setters for its luggage and travel goods. Henk Originally created by a Dutch tycoon for personal use, Henk luggage is available to the average consumer. But the high-tech, customised luggage sells for US$20,000-plus.