This archaeological pattern was defined by Delbert L. True in the 1960s, on the basis of late prehistoric evidence from the territory of the Kumeyaay people, primarily in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Hual-Cu-Cuish (SDI-860) is another Cuyamaca complex site.
The interpretation of the Cuyamaca Complex was elaborated primarily in contrast with the San Luis Rey Complex, which existed contemporaneously in the Palomar Mountain area of northern San Diego County, within Luiseño territory. Elements that set the Cuyamaca Complex apart from the San Luis Rey Complex, according to True, include:
- defined cemetery areas apart from living areas
- use of grave markers
- cremated human remains placed in urns
- use of specially made mortuary offerings such as miniature vessels, miniature arrow-shaft straighteners, and elaborate projectile points
- preference for side-notched Desert and Cottonwood projectile points
- substantial numbers of scraping tools
- emphasis on use of Tizon and Lower Colorado ceramics
- steatite industry
- substantially higher frequency of milling stone tools
- clay-lined hearths
- "A Glossary of Proper Names in California Prehistory." Society for California Archaeology. (retrieved 12 Aug 2011)
- True (1970:53–54)
- True, D. L. 1970. Investigations of a Late Prehistoric Complex in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, San Diego County, California. Archaeological Survey Monograph. University of California, Los Angeles.
- Gamble, Lynn. 2004. "New Perspectives on the Cuyamaca Complex: Archaeological Investigations at Camp Hual-Cu-Cuish, CA-SDI-945". Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology 14:93–106.
- Gross, G. Timothy, and Michael Sampson. 1990. "Archaeological Studies of Late Prehistoric Sites in the Cuyamaca Mountains, San Diego County, California". Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology 3:135–148.
- Guerrero, Monica. 2004. "A Possible Cuyamaca Complex Site at CA-SDI-945, Camp Hual-Cu-Cuish, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, California". Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology 14:107–113.
- True, D. L. 1966. Archaeological Differentiation of Shoshonean and yuman Speaking Groups in Southern California. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles.