These Old Kingdom reserve heads as they are known appear to be funerary in nature. Nearly all are carved in white limestone but at least one is made from Nile mud.
Many appear to be actual portraits while some are too idealized to be portraits of the tomb owners in which all the heads were found.
Harvard Egyptologist Dr. George Reisner found most of the heads in tombs from the fourth dynasty at Giza relating to courtiers of pharaoh's Khufu and Khafre. One was found by Jacques de Morgan in 1894 at Saqqara.
One of the heads was undisturbed since the day of burial and was found in the burial chamber next to the sarcophagus. The other heads were found scattered around the tombs and in their shafts discarded by ancient robbers.
One of the heads which came from Giza tomb G4940B and now in the Boston museum of fine arts has a heavily plastered attachment to its face and holes indicating the ears were in another material.
Some have suggested the heads were created as molds for funerary masks.
The heads show that the royal court of this dynasty contained members of a number of races.
The practice of mummification at this period was not perfected and these heads may be an early form of Ka statue for this nearly three dozen courtiers of the fourth dynasty.