Black band disease (BBD) is a microbial consortium that creates anoxic, sulfide-rich microenvironments and kills underlying coral tissues as it rapidly migrates across colonies. Although bacterial communities associated with BBD have been studied extensively, the presence and roles of archaea are unexplored. Using amplicon-pyrosequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA genes, we investigated the community structure of both archaea and bacteria within microbial lesions of BBD and the less-virulent precursor stage, ‘cyanobacterial patches’ (CP), affecting the coral Montipora hispida. We detected characteristic shifts in microbial communities during the development of BBD from CP, reflecting microenvironmental changes within lesions. Archaeal profiles in CP suggested a diverse assemblage affiliated with the Thaumarchaeota and Euryarchaeota, similar to communities described for oxic marine environments. In contrast, a novel ribotype, distantly affiliated to the Euryarchaeota, dominated up to 94% of archaeal sequences retrieved from BBD. The physiological characteristics of this dominant archaeal ribotype are unknown because of the novelty of its 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequences; however, their prominent associations with BBD lesions suggest the ability to thrive in the organic- and sulfide-rich anoxic microenvironment characteristic of BBD lesions. Discovery of this novel archaeal ribotype provides new insights into the microbial ecology and aetiology of BBD.