The lead paragraph of Wikipedia article “Human trophy taking in Mesoamerica” starts with this sentence:
Most of the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica such as the Olmec, Maya, Mixtec, Zapotec and Aztec cultures practised some kind of taking of human trophies during warfare. Captives taken during war would often be taken to their captors’ city-states where they would be ritually tortured and sacrificed. These practices are documented by a rich material of iconographic and archaeological evidence from across Mesoamerica.
Today I added some info to that article.
In the South West of Mexico there are various pre-Columbian figures in which high-ranking characters, warriors and ball players wear ritual and military paraphernalia, holding inverted heads with their loose, long hair hanging down. One of these figures can be seen in the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington (see drawing below). Javier Urcid writes that these trophies may have been “soft parts of decapitated heads turned into relics to hang.” There are also several figures showing characters with facial skin on their face: the skin of a flayed human. Urcid’s article in El Sacrificio Humano en la Tradición Religiosa Mesoamericana includes several illustrations of these trophies in the southern west of Mexico, including a brazier depicting a ball player with a flayed facial mask, wearing a necklace of human bones and carrying a severed head.
The Relación Geográfica of 1580 mentions the festivity of the tlacaxipehualiztli in the context of human skin as trophies in Oaxaca: “… and with rods they hit throughout the body until it swelled, and then flayed the bodies and washed the meat with hot water and ate it, and carried the skins in the nearby villages for begging.”
Sometimes it is not even necessary to add value judgments about such practices. A simple enumeration of the facts is enough. More info about this cute ritual, the tlacaxipehualiztli, performed by these little angles that were the pre-Hispanic Amerinds appears in my book. Keep in mind that the tlacaxipehualiztli was performed every year before the Spanish conquest.