The advice is simple. To eliminate bedbugs, spread gunpowder on and around your bed, light it with a match, and keep the room closed for an hour or more. To compliment a lady, tell her that her legs are “as stately and firm as a marble pillar” and her breasts are “as soft and tender as a pelican’s.” To soothe a teething baby, massage his or her gums with rabbit brains.

Education historian Elizabeth Archibald, who teaches humanities courses at Peabody Conservatory, compiles pieces of advice like these on her blog, Ask the Past. Applying tips from very old books to contemporary questions, the blog takes on such topics as how to mouse-proof your cheese, groom your eyebrows, and determine if someone is dead.

In August 2012, Naomi Levin boarded a plane from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Baltimore with ground-up teeth in her carry-on. The teeth were fossils found at the Woranso-Mille paleontological site in Ethiopia. An assistant professor in the Krieger School’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Levin had joined scientists there investigating Pliocene-epoch hominids, precursors to modern humans. Now, luggage in hand, she wanted to get the powdered teeth back to her lab to run them through a mass spectrometer and analyze the carbon isotope data.