THE NAME of Giorgio Buchner will always be associated with that of his adopted home, the island of Ischia on the Bay of Naples. There, he devoted much of his professional life to the excavation and study of the vast ancient Greek centre of Pithekoussai that lies under the holiday resort of Lacco Ameno, and became one of south Italy's leading archaeologists in the process.
Nothing of any age concerning his island was unimportant to him, and nothing angered him more than the relentless advance of speculative building over the areas of outstanding natural beauty that he had enjoyed in his youth.
Giorgio Buchner was born in Munich in 1914, the only child of a German father and an Italian mother. His mother, the painter Massimiliana Coppa, had gone to Germany as an art student, largely (as her son liked to recall) because it was not permissible for her to learn how to draw the nude human figure in Italy. In Germany she met a young scientist, Paul Buchner, who needed to learn Italian before taking up a research scholarship at the Zoological Station in Naples. They married, and eventually built the house at Porto d'Ischia in which their son was to live for most of the last 70 years of his life.
While still a pupil in the Gymnasium at Breslau (where his father was teaching in the university), Buchner acquired the publisher's last remaining copy of Julius Beloch's classic 1890 treatise (Campanien) on ancient Campania. His imagination was fired by the description in it of a part of Ischia that he had visited on fact- finding expeditions with his father: 'The surface of the hill is strewn with fragments of tiles and vases, and intact layers of them are revealed when the ground is scratched with a walking stick.'
The hill in question was Monte di Vico, dominating what was then the still quiet hamlet of Lacco Ameno. Beloch's report changed Giorgio Buchner's life, and caused him to revolutionise everyone's knowledge of the Greeks in Italy.
But the world had to change first. Paul Buchner, appointed to the Leipzig chair of zoology in 1934, had no sympathy with the Nazi regime; worse still, he feared that the regime would require him to find practical applications for his research on micro-organisms. Eventually the family decided not to return to Germany after their usual summer holiday on Ischia. And on Ischia they stayed. Paul Buchner was able to continue his research in an initially makeshift laboratory that soon became a mecca for the international zoological community. His monumental Endosymbiosis of Animals with Plant Micro- organisms appeared in 1965 and was followed by an equally learned account of foreign visitors to Ischia over five centuries (Gast auf Ischia, 1968).
Meanwhile, in 1938, Giorgio Buchner had graduated in archaeology at Rome University. His thesis (sadly never published) treated Ischia and the neighbouring islands, and already incorporated the results of his own prehistoric and Mycenaean discoveries at Castiglione d'Ischia and on the nearby islet of Vivara.
He became an Italian citizen in 1940, and his appointment in 1944 to the post of Chief Civilian Engineer to the British naval base at Porto d'Ischia enabled him not only to continue his archaeological researches, but also to persuade the municipal authorities in Porto d'Ischia to open a small museum. No glass was available for the exhibition cases, so the Royal Navy commandeered a supply of wire netting.
Buchner joined the staff of the Naples Superintendency of Antiquities in 1946; and in 1952 he was at last able to begin work at Lacco Ameno. It had long been clear that this small commune coincided with ancient Pithekoussai, known to the Greek geographer Strabo and the Roman historian Livy as the precursor of Cumae on the nearby mainland. …