How to save a temple.
They say the best way to preserve old buildings is to use them. Deserted buildings fall into ruin surprisingly quickly.
When King Ramesses III commissioned his memorial temple, Medinet Habu, on the West Bank at Thebes, the temple enclosure incorporated a much earlier structure: the "Small Temple". This temple was built some 300 years earlier under Hatshepsut and Thutmose III, and dedicated to an aspect of Amun associated with eight creator gods and goddesses.
The Small Temple was erected on sacred ground: the legendary site where the primeval mound arose from the waters of chaos. Amun, along with the eight deities, was believed to be buried there, under the "Genuine Mound of the West".
Ramesses' action saved the Small Temple from neglect or plundering.
In fact, long after Ramesses III's own temple has been abandoned, the Small Temple, being a magical place that brought regeneration to the blessed dead, enjoyed an enduring popularity. Additions were made at the front of the building, principally by the Nubian pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty, and the 30th Dynasty's Nectanebo I. Around 100 B.C., the Ptolemaic rulers also added a large pylon facade to act as a grand ceremonial entrance.
Ironically, although the Ptolemies were committed to preserving the "Small Temple", the pylon they built before it was made completely of reused blocks. These mostly came from the Ramesseum, but some were also plundered from Amenhotep III's memorial temple.
The preservation of Ramesses III's own temple is largely thanks to it being utilised for reasons other than its original purpose. During the reign of Ramesses XI, the last king of the 20th Dynasty, Medinet Habu became a place of refuge for the royal tomb-builders at Deir el-Medina, who moved there for protection against marauding Libyans.
Later the temple building supported a Coptic monastery and then a Christian church. Although the new inhabitants caused some damage to the 'pagan' statues and reliefs inside, the fact that the building was being used meant that it wasn't turned into a handy quarry of cut blocks.
This brilliant image of the Ptolemaic Pylon fronting the "Small Temple" was taken by Mohamed Attef.