William Fagg defined the Middle Period in his chronology of Benin bronzes as when the rectangular bronze plaques were cast, probably somewhere between 1550 and 1650, the Early Period falling before this time and Late Period after it. This hundred years embraced the reigns of the last of the great warrior kings, Orhogbua and Ehengbuda, and those of Ohuan and Ohenzae (a time of crisis and renewal, see Girschick Ben-Amos, 1995). The heads cast for the altars of the ancestors of this period are those wearing the coral-beaded cap and high collar without a flanged base (Dark Type 3), in which sequence can be seen an increase in weight and size as well as a certain stylization in the treatment of the features. As William Fagg puts it so well when writing about the head in the British Museum, which is probably by the same hand as the Heneker example: "Though still excellently proportioned, the heads have now become more stereotyped and seem to be intended to carry a great weight, such as the carved tusks known to have been mounted on the later heads. The naturalistic concept of Ife is not yet entirely submerged." (Fagg, 1963, pl.14b) Indeed, when the Museum's head is compared with another Type 3 example which is without the beaded double clusters and iron-inlay ikao, it evidently retains much of the sensitivity which is so evident in the Early Period heads of a similar form but without a beaded cap. It is possible that the small group to which the present head belongs might have been cast by Oba Orhogbua for the great king Esigie in about 1550, but they could equally well have been made by Ehengbuda for Orhogbua in about 1580.
Philip Dark (1982) lists fifty bronze heads in his category Type 3, and also acknowledges that a small group within it retains the sensitive aesthetic found in the Early Period heads. He defines these eight heads as Group 2A within Type 3. They are the smallest of the heads of this Period (each under 9½in. or 24cm. high), all with iron-inset ikao marks at the center of the forehead and two beaded clusters each side of the beaded cap. He illustrates the present head (1982, fig.33) and incorrectly attributes it to the collection of Louis Carré. The other Benin heads within Dark's Type 3 (probably about forty) lack the iron inlay and bear only one beaded cluster to one side of the cap: they are also larger than the Heneker example. In Group 2A, besides the head in the British Museum mentioned above, others are in Leiden (von Luschan, 1919, fig.522), Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, England, Albright Knox Gallery, Buffalo, Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museums, Cologne (Frölich, 1966, fig.LXIIIb), Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin (von Luschan, 1919, pl.54), Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, and another was sold by Christie's in London (3 December 1968, lot 76).
William Charles Giffard Heneker (1867-1906), who brought the present head back to England from Nigeria, does not appear to have taken part in the Punitive Expedition of February 1897, but was closely involved in Benin activities soon afterwards. He is recorded as working for the Niger Coast Protectorate in June of that year, and, with Captain Carter, trussed, gagged and transferred the deposed Oba Ovoranmwen (spelt Overami by Home in his account, 1982, p.113) from Benin to the ship Ivy in Gwato in the middle of a September night, for the Oba's exile in Calabar. In the 1899 Benin Territories Expedition he served as Intelligence and Survey Officer: with the West African Frontier Force he commanded the Ulia and Ishan Exepeditions, and various Columns in the Aro Exepedition 1902: for his bravery in the last he was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order. Later he served in Ijebu-Olokoro and Afikpo. He developed new tactics for fighting in Nigeria and published Bush Warfare in 1907. In 1912 he transferred to India with the North Staffordshire Regiment before returning to Europe. He was knighted in 1919. He married in 1901 and had two sons.