ROCA - An Ontology for Capturing and Analysing Tool Use and Tool Making



The ROCA ontology (RObotics, Cognition, Archaeology) is a novel ontology designed to describe behavioural processes such as tool use and tool making in the context of robotics, archaeology, and primatology, with a focus on observational data.

The origin

The Ancient Adhesives project, led by Dr. Geeske Langejans, aims to create new computational methods to study technological complexities in (pre)historic times to shed light to the evolution of hominin cognitive capabilities. In particular, the project employs automated formal methods to model and compare adhesive technologies, that are the oldest examples of highly complex technology. A spin-off project named ROCA (Rrobotics and cognitive archaeology) was launched in partnership with Pierre Mercuriali and Carlos Hernandez Corbato of the Cognitive Robotics Department at TUDelft. The ROCA ontology hosted in this website is an output of this project.

The authors

  • Geeske H.J. Langejans 1,2
  • Carlos Hernandez Corbato 1
  • Pierre R. Mercuriali 1
1 - Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering, TUDelft
2 - Palaeo-research Institute, University of Johannesburg


The ontology: roca.owl

The ROCA ontology is split into two:
  • Concepts and relations: roca.owl
  • Instances: roca_instances.owl
    (instances of primate behaviour curated from the literature and described using the concepts and relations)


What are ontologies?

Ontologies can be seen as expressive taxonomies. Like taxonomies, ontologies contain subsumption relations, e.g., to express that the concept of a Hammer is more specific than the concept of a Tool. Ontologies can also contain more complex relations, such as temporal relationships between actions, as well as concrete instances of concepts, such as a specific chimpanzee being observed as opposed to the general concept of Chimpanzee.


  • ROCA

White paper(s)

  • Description of ROCA
  • How to use the ROCA ontology?