This is a reply to a critique of Jane Jacobs’ ‘cities first’ thesis with respect to agricultural origins. The critique’s basic premise is that the archaeological record regarding the development of agriculture precedes the earliest cities and therefore the thesis is empirically refuted. Accepting this archaeological record for agriculture, the dispute centres on the archaeological record for city origins. Substituting a process definition of cities—city-ness—for a ‘thing’ definition (e.g. monumentality), this reply opens up pre-Mesopotamian possibilities for city networks while conceding the difficulty in empirically obtaining evidence in earlier periods. Thus Jacobs’ thesis cannot be absolutely refuted, and an exciting agenda for urban research emerges for archaeologists and social scientists.