Transcription in Archaea is initiated by association of a TATA box binding protein (TBP) with a TATA box. This interaction is stabilized by the binding of the transcription factor IIB (TFIIB) orthologue TFB. We show here that the RNA polymerase of the archaeon Methanococcus, in contrast to polymerase II, does not require hydrolysis of the β-γ bond of ATP for initiation of transcription and open complex formation on linearized DNA. Permanganate probing revealed that the archaeal open complex spanned at least the DNA region from −11 to −1 at a tRNAVal promoter. The Methanococcus TBP-TFB promoter complex protected the DNA region from −40 to −14 on the noncoding DNA strand and the DNA segment from −36 to −17 on the coding DNA strand from DNase I digestion. This DNase I footprint was extended only to the downstream end by the addition of the RNA polymerase to position +17 on the noncoding strand and to position +13 on the coding DNA strand.