The distribution of the archaeal communities in deep subseafloor sediments [0–36 m below the seafloor (mbsf)] from the New Caledonia and Fairway Basins was investigated using DNA- and RNA-derived 16S rRNA clone libraries, functional genes and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). A new method, Co-Migration DGGE (CM-DGGE), was developed to access selectively the active archaeal diversity. Prokaryotic cell abundances at the open-ocean sites were on average ∼3.5 times lower than at a site under terrestrial influence. The sediment surface archaeal community (0–1.5 mbsf) was characterized by active Marine Group 1 (MG-1) Archaea that co-occurred with ammonia monooxygenase gene (amoA) sequences affiliated to a group of uncultured sedimentary Crenarchaeota. However, the anoxic subsurface methane-poor sediments (below 1.5 mbsf) were dominated by less active archaeal communities, such as the Thermoplasmatales, Marine Benthic Group D and other lineages probably involved in the methane cycle (Methanosarcinales, ANME-2 and DSAG/MBG-B). Moreover, the archaeal diversity of some sediment layers was restricted to only one lineage (Uncultured Euryarchaeota, DHVE6, MBG-B, MG-1 and SAGMEG). Sequences forming two clusters within the Thermococcales order were also present in these cold subseafloor sediments, suggesting that these uncultured putative thermophilic archaeal communities might have originated from a different environment. This study shows a transition between surface and subsurface sediment archaeal communities.