I explore the ramifications of applying some recent research on cities, built on the work of Jane Jacobs, to early city development. A communications approach to ‘city-ness’ is offered as a way of understanding early cities as qualitatively new social worlds enabling world-changing processes. Returning to Jacobs' use of Çatalhöyük to push back the timing of the first cities, I review recent work on the site to support her thesis. In the process I also argue in favour of her controversial thesis of cities inventing agriculture using Sahlin's ‘stone age economics’. Further, and going beyond Jacobs, I argue that states were also invented in cities and harness evidence for this in Mesopotamian studies. In both cases I provide generic conclusions that briefly indicate examples from other parts of the world.