The complex is dated generally to the middle Holocene period. This makes it locally the successor to the San Dieguito Complex, predecessor to the late prehistoric San Luis Rey Complex, and contemporary with the La Jolla Complex on the San Diego County coast.
Archaeological traits distinguishing the Pauma Complex include:
- a high frequency of shaped manos
- the presence of finely worked small domed scrapers
- the presence of knives and points
- the presence of discoidals and cogged stones
- a predominance of grinding tools over flaked tools
- a predominance of deep basin metates over slab metates
- a predominance of cobble hammers over core hammers
- a low frequency of cobble tools
- a scarcity of cobble choppers and cobble scrapers
- a predominance of volcanic rock over quartzite as a source material for flaked lithics
- an extreme scarcity of obsidian
- True, D. L. 1958. "An Early Complex in San Diego County, California". American Antiquity 23:255-263.
- True, D. L. 1980. "The Pauma Complex in Northern San Diego County: 1978". Journal of New World Archaeology 3(4):1-39.
- True, D. L., and R. Pankey. 1985. "Radiocarbon Dates for the Pauma Complex Component at the Pankey Site, Northern San Diego County, California". Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 7:240-244.
- Warren, Claude N., D. L. True, and Ardith A. Eudey. 1961. "Early Gathering Complexes of Western San Diego County: Results and Interpretations of an Archaeological Survey". University of California, Los Angeles, Archaeological Survey Annual Report 1960-1961:1-106.